The rotator cuff is comprised of the muscles and connective tissue that surround the shoulder joint. The four rotator cuff muscles are the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis. The tendons of these muscles keep the head of your humerus, the upper arm bone, within the shoulder’s socket. Injuries to this area are common in people who play baseball, tennis, certain musical instruments, and paint. It is also common in those that do repetitive overhead activity and heavy lifting. Rotator cuff injuries may result from either an acute injury to the shoulder or progressive degeneration of the tendon(s) over a long time.
- Weakness in shoulder and arm
- Dull achiness
- Decreased range of motion
- Disturbed sleep when sleeping on the affected shoulder
- Pain when doing activities of daily living
A physician makes a diagnosis based on tests and various kinds of imaging.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses radio waves and a strong magnet to display all shoulder structures in a very detailed image.
- Ultrasound uses sound waves to produce images of the body’s soft tissue structures, such as muscles and tendons. It allows assessing the structures of your shoulder as they move or dynamic testing. It also allows the examiner to make a quick comparison between the affected shoulder and the healthy shoulder.
- X-rays. A rotator cuff tear won’t show up on an X-ray, but this test can see if bone spurs or arthritis is the cause of the pain.
Depending on the severity of the injury to the rotator cuff, treatment options range. Ice and rest are beneficial for relatively benign rotator cuff injuries. Others may opt for cortisone steroid injections, physical therapy, acupuncture, and even surgery to repair a tear.
Massage therapy can be beneficial when it comes to treating a rotator cuff injury. Massage therapy brings fresh blood and lymph into the area by improving circulation. This helps to speed the healing process. After surgery, massage therapy helps reduce scar tissue formation. It can also help to improve mobility and flexibility of the shoulder joint. If the joint is swollen, then do not apply deep massage strokes, nor should you stretch the area.
Massage therapy is also an ideal way to prevent shoulder injuries. A variety of techniques and modalities can help elongate muscles and contribute to their pliability. This helps the muscles become more resilient and recover from injury. Speak with your massage therapist about the kind of pain you are experiencing, including how long you have been experiencing the pain and if your range of motion has been diminished. Self-care can also go a long way to help prevent injury. Daily stretching before physical activity is an easy and effective way to help with shoulder pain.
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