• Review Us
  • WORKSHOPS
  • Rotator Cuff Injury

    Rotator Cuff Injury

    Your rotator cuff is comprised of the muscles and tendons surrounding your shoulder joint. Sometimes, the rotator cuff can become torn or injured, due to repetitive overhead motions performed in sports (such as tennis) or jobs (such as carpentry.) Athletes are also at risk of developing a rotator cuff injury if they participate in rigorous activities, such as weightlifting, swimming, or tennis. 

    The active movements associated with sports and laborious work are undoubtedly important factors to keep in mind; however, passive movements can also be contributing factors to an injury. Continuous poor posture and improper positioning of the shoulders can make your scapula, or shoulder blade, much more vulnerable to pain and rotator cuff injuries. 

    Those who experience rotator cuff injuries or “torn shoulders” generally report a dull ache deep in their shoulder, arm weakness, difficulty reaching behind their back, and disturbed sleep due to pain. 

    At Johnston Physical Therapy, our natural and non-invasive methods can help relieve your shoulder pain and heal your rotator cuff injury. 

    How can physical therapy help a rotator cuff injury?

    While rotator cuff injuries sometimes require surgery if they are severe enough, there are several cases where physical therapy treatments can work just as well (if not better) than surgery. 

    According to the American Physical Therapy Association, “A recent study from Finland asserts that when it comes to treatment of non-traumatic rotator cuff tears, physical therapy alone produces results equal to those produced by arthroscopic surgery and open surgical repair.” In this same study, a follow-up on 167 patients receiving physical therapy alone for their rotator cuff injuries, demonstrated that conservative treatment, such as physical therapy, should be considered as the primary treatment for this condition.

    How do I know if physical therapy is needed?

    It is natural to experience an occasional ache or pain from overexertion. However, it is when the pain becomes chronic or unbearable that the condition becomes serious. Chronic pain, or pain persisting for three months or longer, is an indication that PT intervention is needed.

    There are some additional symptoms to consider that may also be telling signs that treatment is needed, such as:

    • Sharp or stinging pains.
    • Uncomfortable “clicking” sounds with movement.
    • Dull pain that runs alongside your arm.
    • Sudden arm weakness. 

    If you notice any of these symptoms, it is important to contact a physical therapist for treatment.

    How can I begin treatments?

    At Johnston Physical Therapy, we will conduct a physical evaluation and diagnostic tests to determine if you do indeed have a rotator cuff tear, and we will design a personalized treatment plan based on the needs of your diagnosis. Specialized techniques, such as ice and heat therapies, manual therapies, or ultrasound may be used to relieve pain, reduce swelling, and enhance function. Gentle stretches and exercises may also be prescribed to improve your posture and the range of motion of your shoulder. 

    If you are suffering from a rotator cuff injury, contact us today. Our Des Moines & Ankeny, IA dedicated physical therapists will provide you with some much-needed relief and get you started on your path toward recovery! 

    FAQs

    What is the best exercise for shoulder pain?

    While there is no one-stop solution for shoulder pain, there are many exercises that can be done to help strengthen the rotator cuff region and ease the pain you are expereincing. Our physical therapists are highly trained to help improve the flexibility and range of motion in your shoulder, in addition to relieving your pain and discomfort. This will be done through an individualized treatment plan designed specifically for you, including therapeutic modalities and targeted pain-relief exercises. A couple common rotator cuff-strengthening exercises that physical therapists prescribe are wall push-ups and chair push-ups. Resistance bands can also be used to increase the strength in your shoulder and help relieve pain. However, it is important to note that if your pain is serious, these exercises should not be performed without the aid of a physical therapist.

    How many types of shoulder pain exist?

    When it comes to your upper extremities, injuries typically fall into two categories: acute or overuse. Acute injuries are caused by a single specific incident, such as a strain or tear. Overuse injuries are caused by excessive repetitive movements over time. Both acute and overuse injuries can range from mild to severe and can have a significant impact on daily life function. Shoulder pain can also be chronic, meaning it has persisted for 3 months or longer, despite efforts to relieve it. If you have been living with chronic shoulder pain, it is in your best interest to consult with a physical therapist as soon as possible, so they can get to the root of the problem and treat you accordingly.

    Can physical therapy help shoulder pain?

    Two of the biggest goals of physical therapy are 1) to alleviate your pain and 2) to improve your function. Your physical therapist will work with you to make sure that both of these are achieved throughout your physical therapy sessions. Physical therapy has been proven to manage the pain of several conditions, and in many cases, it has even been proven to eliminate shoulder pain altogether, thus making the need for harmful drugs or surgical intervention obsolete.

    What are the causes of shoulder pain?

    There are several underlying causes that could result in shoulder pain. For example, a sudden injury or trauma to the shoulders can cause them to become painful. Repetitive motions can also cause shoulder pain, as your muscles, joints, and tendons are working in overdrive. While there are multiple factors that could be causing your shoulder pain, some of the most common include sprains, strains, a torn cartilage, dislocation, frozen shoulder, tendinitis, and arthritis.