The rotator cuff is basically a group of tendons and muscles that work together to stabilize your shoulder joint. It consists of muscles (infraspinatus, teres minor, subscapularis, and supraspinatus) that connect your shoulder blade to the upper arm. These tendons provide stability, and the muscles let you rotate your shoulder with ease. You may experience shoulder pain for different reasons; however, a rotator cuff injury is usually the most common cause of concern.
Rotator cuff injuries usually lead to three common conditions, including rotator cuff impingement syndrome, rotator cuff tendonitis, and a rotator cuff tear. Depending on your condition and symptoms, your healthcare provider may treat you with anti-inflammatory drugs, painkillers, steroid injections, and physiotherapy. Surgery is another option to consider.
A rotator cuff strain is common and is usually a tear to any of the muscles in your shoulder. You may injure yourself after lifting, falling or pulling. Repetitive stress and a protruding bone may also lead to a rotator cuff strain. The symptoms of a rotator cuff tear include:
Your doctor will start with a physical exam and press on different parts of your shoulder. You will have to move your arm into different positions. This will help your doctor understand how intense the tear is and if you have lost any strength in your arms or shoulder. Sometimes, your doctor may also recommend imaging tests, such as:
You don't usually have to do much to fix a minor injury. If the pain is not severe, you can always try certain home remedies to trigger healing.
If it is a repetitive injury, take a break from what caused the pain in the first place. Limit overhead activity and heavy lifting until your pain subsides.
Using an ice pack will help reduce pain and inflammation. You should put ice on your shoulder for 20 minutes or so and repeat it every 3-4 hours. Once the inflammation reduces, you can use hot packs to relax sore muscles.
Consider taking OTC pain relievers such as naproxen, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen to deal with pain.
In addition to these, you should also consider performing range-of-motion exercises to improve the functionality of your shoulder. Working with a physiotherapist is a good idea because they will help you understand how to stretch and strengthen the muscles around your shoulder using proper exercise moves.You can always start with some of the following exercises, but consult your doctor if the pain persists or aggravates.
You can try several other exercises as well. You can opt for an exercise that stretches your shoulder, such as anterior shoulder stretch, posterior stretching, wall stretches, or pendulum exercise. You can also do exercises to strengthen your shoulder, such as internal or external rotation exercise with band, wall push-ups, isometric shoulder exercises, and shoulder blade retraction with or without tubing. The following video will help you learn more about some exercises to fix your rotator cuff.
For minor rotator cuff injuries, it is usually enough to take rest and use ice and physical therapy to relieve the symptoms. You may need a combination of medication and therapy to deal with a severe injury.
You may have to take a steroid injection if conservative treatments don't seem to work in your case. A steroid injection is usually the option when the pain starts interfering with your daily activities, sleep, or exercise. You will have to take an injection into your shoulder joint, and it helps with the pain, but it may weaken the tendon if not used judiciously.
There are different situations when you'll have no choice but to go for rotator cuff surgical procedures.