Diagnosis: The rotator cuff is a group of muscles in the shoulder preventing the head of the upper arm bone from slipping out of the socket. Risk for injuries to these muscles tends to increase with age and in people who perform repetitive overhead motions in their jobs or sports.
Symptoms: Tears can range in severity between slight and complete tears. They can often be accompanied by symptoms such as:
- Dull ache deep in the shoulder
- Difficulty lying on the affected side
- Difficulty reaching behind the head or back, a complete tear will make it impossible to lift arm over the head.
- Possible arm weakness
Causes: Rotator cuff injuries may be the result of traumatic damage to the shoulder or to progressive degeneration and gradual wear and tear of the tendon. Risk factors include:
- Age: Rotator cuff tears are most common in people greater than 40 years old.
- Sports: Athletes who actively perform overhead arm motions such as baseball pitchers, archers and tennis players.
- Construction jobs. Occupations such as carpentry or house painting require repetitive arm motions, often overhead, that can damage the rotator cuff over time.
- Family history: Possible genetic component as tears seem to be more common in certain families.
Our Physical Therapy Treatment: Goals of physical therapy will ultimately be to reduce pain, restore normal pain free range of motion, and allow for a safe return to all functional and leisure activities. Length of treatment and plan of care will depend on the severity of the injury, but will most commonly include:
- Mechanical diagnoses/treatment for improved movement and pain reduction
- Postural education and awareness
- Shoulder and scapular stability and strengthening exercises
- Manual therapy
Treatment will focus on educating the patient in an individualized self-treatment plan and establishing a home exercise program to further promote healing and prevention of future injury.