The rotator cuff is a group of tendons that connects the four muscles of the upper shoulder to the bones. The strength of the cuff allows the muscles to lift and rotate the humerus (the bone of the upper arm). The tendons run under the acromion (part of the shoulder blade) where they are very vulnerable to being damaged. This can lead to a tear resulting in a painful, weak shoulder.
A tear may result suddenly from a single traumatic event or develop gradually. It most commonly occurs due to repetitive or prolonged activities placing strain on the rotator cuff like; excessive lifting, overhead activities, lying on the affected side, pushing, pulling or use of the arm in front of the body.
When the tendons or muscles of the rotator cuff tear, the patient is no longer able to lift or rotate his or her arm with the same range of motion as before the injury and/or has significant pain associated with shoulder motion.
Often, the pain associated with this condition is experienced as an ache in the shoulder that increases to a sharper pain or catching pain with certain activities. Occasionally, pain may also be experienced in the upper arm, shoulder blade, upper back or neck. The pain is also very common at night, often radiating down the arm.
Treatment for Rotator Cuff Pain
Physiotherapy treatment for patients with this condition is vital to hasten the healing process, ensure an optimal outcome and decrease the likelihood of injury recurrence. Treatment may comprise:
- Deep tissue massage/myofascial release
- Joint mobilisation
- Joint manipulation
- Dry needling /acupuncture
- Exercise programs to improve proprioception, strength (rotator cuff and scapular) and posture
- Biomechanical assessment (Scapular rhythm)
- Postural Correction
- Activity modification advice
- Ice or heat treatment
- Injection advice