Physiotherapy for a Rotator Cuff Injury
A rotator cuff injury is a common shoulder injury. The shoulder joint is a ball and socket joint which is controlled by a group of four muscles called the rotator cuff. The shoulder joint is relatively unstable due to the shallow socket which makes shoulder injuries quite common.
What is the Rotator Cuff?
The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles and their tendons. These muscles stabilise the shoulder joint by attaching the shoulder blade to the upper arm bone (the humerus). The rotator cuff helps to move the shoulder in a wide range of directions. The rotator cuff muscles and their tendons are:
- The Infraspinatus
- The subscapularis
- The suprapinatus
- The teres minor
Each one of these four muscles attach to the humerus by a tendon. A tendon is a thick band of fibrous tissue.
Rotator Cuff Injuries
The rotator cuff muscles are vulnerable to injuries such as rotator cuff tendonitis, rotator cuff tears and rotator cuff impingement. Common injuries associated with the rotator can also involve the bursa. The bursa is a fluid-filled sac (like a cushion) that reduces friction in the shoulder space. Rotator cuff injuries vary in severity and some of the most common include:
- Rotator cuff tendonitis: Inflammation to the tendons of the rotator cuff.
- Rotator cuff impingement: the rotator cuff tendons and subacromial bursa become pinched, causing inflammation.
- Rotator cuff tears: A tear to a rotator cuff tendon.
- Shoulder bursitis: Inflammation of the shoulder bursa.
The Symptoms of Rotator Cuff Injuries
Rotator cuff injuries often cause pain and tenderness in the shoulder. Sometimes there won’t be any symptoms, however, the most common symptoms include:
- Pain when elevating the arm
- Weakness in the shoulder
- Pain when lying on the affected side
How Physio Can Help
The aim of treating rotator cuff injuries is to restore full function of the shoulder joint. Treatments may include anti-inflammatories, resting from activities that aggravate the shoulder and shoulder physio.
Shoulder physio aims to rehabilitate the shoulder joint and prevent recurrence of the injury. Physiotherapy for a rotator cuff injury may include some or all of the following:
- Anti-inflammatories and pain relief advice in the initial stages
- Restoring full control and range of motion
- Restoring shoulder function
- Improving rotator cuff strength
- Restoring power, proprioception and agility
- Returning the patient to work or sport
Exercising the rotator cuff muscles is important in the process of healing from an injury. However, strengthening these muscles too early can cause more pain and delay healing. For help with the appropriate exercises for a shoulder injury, it is highly recommended to seek professional advice from an experienced physiotherapist.
Rotator cuff injuries involve a group of four muscles and their tendons which control the movement of the shoulder. Injuries to this area are common due to the large range of motion available at the shoulder joint. Shoulder physio is an effective treatment for rotator cuff injuries, helping to restore full function and strength to the muscles.