The rotator cuff includes 4 muscles: Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis. These muscles and their tendons surround the glenohumeral (shoulder) joint keeping the upper portion of the humerous in the socket of the shoulder girdle. When one of these muscles or tendons become damaged it's a rotator cuff injury. This can come from overuse or a single trauma to the fibers.
Majority of rotator cuff injuries are related to the supraspinatus tendon which glides underneath a boney landmark in the scapula known as the acromion. Often this gets impinged cutting off blood supply and breaking down the tendon.
What causes a rotator cuff injury?
Overstress injuries including force overload or repetitive motions
Trauma or accidents causing direct damage to the shoulder joint or soft tissue.
poor body mechanics causing unnecessary wear-and-tear on the tendons.
Age can play a factor as well as the older you get the less pliable this tissue becomes making people more susceptible to damage.
Rotator cuff injury symptoms:
Dull Ache in the shoulder
Pain with range of motion of the shoulder joint
reduce range of motion of the shoulder joint
Weakness in the arm
If cupping is used and there is damaged tissue you may notice chronically dark marks from damaged ligaments
What factors can increase your risk of having rotator cuff issues?
Occupation- Jobs that require heavy shoulder usage, specifically overhead arm mechanics, or any that can cause numerous sensations going through the body such as jack hammers or any other kind of machinery.
Sports- High impact sports like football and rugby can cause trauma injuries. Throwing sports like baseball, tennis, golf, and weightlifting can lead to overuse of the shoulder due to constant explosive movements.
Age- Rotator cuff injuries typically occur in people over the age of 60 as the tissue does not heal as quickly and tends to not be as pliable starting around this age.
Genetic disposition- there may be a family history of rotator cuff injuries which could be caused by any number of issues.
How Functional Neurology techniques can help rotator cuff injuries
Shoulder injuries are often caused by overuse injuries or poor shoulder mechanics. When tissue is overused or damaged it creates compensation patterns making muscles locked, under and over active. This can create lead to further overuse of overactive muscles and sometimes make it so tendons rub over boney landmarks causing damage. Proprioceptive techniques like P-DTR are fantastic for making sure shoulder compensations are resolved helping your recover quicker and prevent future injuries.
What Massage Therapy can do to help with rotator cuff issues
Massage therapy is a great way to help restore damaged muscles by drawing attention to the area, stimulating lymphatic flow, and bringing in blood. If the rotator cuff muscles are fibrotic then they may need some deep work to help break apart held together fibers which could be restricting range of motion.
When to see a doctor
If you have immediate weakness in your arm after trauma you should consider seeing your physician and making sure there is no soft tissue damage.
Physical therapy is also a great compliment in helping to rehabilitate these injuries for strengthening and relaxing muscles after some neuromuscular work.
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