Rotator Cuff Injuries
The “rotator cuff” is comprised of four muscles: subscapularis, supraspinatus, infraspinatus, and teres minor and their attachments to the bone. These muscles attach the humerus (the upper arm bone) into the socket of the shoulder blade and serve to hold it tight in the joint. These 4 muscles counteract the motion of the larger and often more powerful deltoid muscle. The deltoid is the major muscle that serves to raise your arm from your side, over your head. The four rotator cuff muscles keep the humerus in the socket and allow the head of the humerus to glide smoothly in its socket as you lift your arm. When these muscles are weak, due to an injury or when they are being overpowered by a strong deltoid muscle, they can’t effectively do their job. The head of the humerus rides up as the arm is lifted and it pinches against another bone at the top of the shoulder socket, causing pain and increasing the injury. This is called an “impingement syndrome”, and is one of the most common causes of pain with rotator cuff injuries. Other conditions such as shoulder tendonitis (long-term) or rotator cuff tears (immediate pain due to injury) can result from overusing weak rotator cuff muscles.
Over training your deltoid muscle or overusing weak rotator cuff muscles can cause significant shoulder problems. Most commonly, the rotator cuff is overused in tennis-like or golf-like sports, including squash and baseball. Body builders or weight lifters who commonly focus on only large muscle groups can be predisposed to rotator cuff problems if they only focus on strengthening the deltoid muscles and not the rotator cuff.
It is important to get your shoulder pain checked out because the longer it is present the more complicated the injury becomes and the longer it takes to get better. It is important to get a proper assessment and diagnosis for any shoulder problem. The doctor can assess and make any treatment recommendations that may be applicable. Treatment for short-term or acute injuries will most likely include chiropractic, acupuncture and massage therapy. With early care you will likely be able to return to your regular recreational activities with a few days. For chronic or long standing shoulder problems, x-rays or MRI studies are helpful in determining the presence of degenerative conditions of the shoulder or neck which, if present, means a slower recovery. In either case, once your shoulder has healed significantly, our medical exercise specialist or personal trainer are available to show you how to effectively and safely strengthen and balance shoulder motion so the problem does not reoccur.
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