Shoulder injuries can occur gradually over time because of everyday activities, or suddenly because of a traumatic force. Statistics suggest that, every year, up to half of the population will experience some form of shoulder pain in a year with nearly half of these stemming from a rotator cuff injury. Studies have also found that 23% of asymptomatic shoulders do in fact have a rotator cuff tear even though these people do not complain of any pain or limited function.
One common form of shoulder pain is shoulder impingement syndrome, which develops over time when a person repeatedly lifts their arm overhead, forcing the rotator cuff tendons to rub against a portion of the shoulder blade known as the acromion. This will cause micro-tears and inflammation in the tendon(s), causing pain with most overhead activities. If the shoulder impingement worsens, it can lead to a rotator cuff tear.
Some physically demanding jobs such as plasterers, painters, electricians and carpenters, just to name a few, require a lot of overhead repetitive activities which may lead to a shoulder impingement. Both professional and recreational athletes who play sports that require overhead motion such as swimming, basketball, baseball or volleyball are also more at risk of a shoulder impingement or rotator cuff tear because of the repetitive and forceful overhead movements required by their sport.
Common shoulder impingement and rotator cuff tear symptoms include:
Pain in the shoulder when lifting
Difficulty raising your arm
Difficulty with reaching overhead
Difficulty sleeping or lying on your shoulder
Pain in the shoulder at night
Loss of shoulder movement
Shoulder Impingement and Rotator Cuff Tear Treatment
In most cases, the first step to recovery is a conservative approach consisting of specific and customized sports physiotherapy exercises to maintain range of motion and strengthen the shoulder muscles. Your physiotherapist will also educate you on which activities to avoid or how to modify them to continue doing the things you like, but in a way that is safer for your shoulder.
Once your shoulder pain begins to resolve, your physiotherapist will progress your program so you can begin to return to your job tasks, sport or recreational activities. One of the best physiotherapy management tools for a shoulder impingement or a rotator cuff tear is to begin a well-structured exercise conditioning program that you can maintain in the long term to prevent further injuries. This shoulder exercise program may include stretches and strengthening to help you return to your daily activities and enjoy an active and healthy lifestyle.
If conservative management fails, surgical repair may be indicated. The discussion of rotator cuff surgery will need to be discussed with your surgeon and factors such as how long you’ve had the tear, your current health status, your activity level, and shoulder requirements are factors to be discussed to determine if surgery is the right choice for you.
Reach Sports Physiotherapy and Hand Clinic is your destination for sports physiotherapy in Edmonton and we’re here to help you start your recovery journey.
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