Before we talk about how to fix a hurt rotator cuff, let me say that the information in this article is for informational purposes and is not intended as medical advice. If you are experiencing shoulder pain, you should seek the counsel of a licensed health care professional.
Okay, I'll try to keep this simple...
Generally speaking you can get injuries 2 ways: #1 Overuse and #2 Trauma
The mechanism of injury plays a role in the severity of the injury and it also plays a role in how to heal the injury.
In fitness people tend to develop overuse injuries because of the repetitive nature of workout programs and fitness routines, so let's start by focusing on the topic of overuse injuries to the rotator cuff.
Overuse injuries arise from 2 main problems: #1 Overuse and #2 Poor Biomechanics.
In the fitness, many people get shoulder injuries because they keep stressing their shoulder and rotator cuff all the time without giving it adequate rest. Guys that want a big chest tend to overwork their shoulder and rotator cuff during their chest workouts, and ladies that want toned arms sometimes do too many shoulder exercises in one workout.
So taking days off and changing the nature of the exercise routine can go a long way to help with decreasing shoulder and rotator cuff pain.
Another very common problem is that people have poor biomechanics which leads to shoulder pain.
Biomechanics has to do with how well your body works and moves. If you have bad posture, poor flexibility, poor strength, and poor shoulder stability you are more likely to experience rotator cuff pain.
Combining bad biomechanics with over use and you have a super high risk of injury to any joint, especially the shoulder.
However, if you improve your posture, your shoulder flexibility, your shoulder strength, and your shoulder stability you can minimize the risk of developing shoulder pain and also work to heal rotator cuff injuries.
Posture exercises that focus on keeping the head straight and the shoulder blades pulled back take pressure off the rotator cuff.
Chest stretches, lat stretches, and shoulder stretches help to improve range of motion while also taking pressure off the rotator cuff.
Lastly, rotator cuff strengthening exercises can strengthen the muscles of the rotator cuff and upper back exercises and shoulder stability exercises can help to support the rotator cuff muscles.
In addition to overuse, you may experience rotator cuff pain from some sort of trauma.
When you have some type of trauma, from a fall or collision of some sort, rest and ice can play a huge role in decreasing pain.
There's no way around it, traumatic injuries need time to heal!
Anti-inflammatory medications may also aid pain reduction for acute injuries, but caution should be used when taking pain medications for an extended period of time for a chronic injury. As always consult with a physician before taking any medications, prescription or otherwise.
Another thing that can make traumatic injuries challenging is that there is usually more than one structure damaged when you have some type of traumatic injury.
For example, let just say that you slip on ice and land awkwardly on your hand and jam your shoulder. With this type of injury, you could damage your labrum (cartilage that helps to keep the shoulder stable), your rotator cuff (the muscles that keep the shoulder stable), and/ or the ligaments that keep the shoulder stable.
In the above example, you may feel rotator cuff pain, but may also have other injuries that make healing your rotator cuff more difficult. It is really important to see a doctor and physical therapist if your symptoms are persistent to get a complete diagnosis of the problem.
Remember you should see your doctor if you're having pain. Rest and ice can be good for both traumatic injuries and overuse injuries.
With overuse injuries that develop secondarily to biomechanical problems, postural exercises, flexibility exercises, and specific strengthening exercises are important to improving shoulder health.
Yours in Health,
Dr. Charles PT/PT
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