What is it?
Rotator cuff is a broad term used to describe shoulder pain, arising from a number of specific pathologies:
- Rotator cuff tendinopathy (previously called tendinitis)
- Partial / full thickness tears of the rotator cuff muscles
- Subacromial pain (impingement/bursitis) syndrome.
Signs and Symptoms:
- Pain around the shoulder region including the upper arm
- Pain when bringing your arm up in front or out to the side
- Loss of shoulder function and strength
- Increased difficulty with lying on your sore shoulder.
What Causes this Shoulder Pain?
You will quite likely have heard of the rotator cuff - they are a group of four muscles in the shoulder that work together to stabilise the shoulder joint. The muscles work throughout shoulder range whether it be lifting your arm up in front or overhead your body. Most of the time, shoulder pain is caused by improper loading of the tissues or excessive stress, greater than the shoulder’s capacity to perform the tasks.
Usually in people under the age of 50, there is a sudden increase in activity which can cause shoulder pain. Often people over the age of 50 have age-related changes to the tendons which may contributing factor to the weakness/shoulder issue.
Like all pain, shoulders have decreased resilience for loading when our sleep is reduced and our system is experiencing high stress.
What can you try at home?
- Continue movements as able – as long as it’s below 3-4/10 pain – if it is higher modify your activities by:
- Temporarily reduce the amount of overhead work you do
- Step towards things instead of reaching out for them
- Use both hands to lift things rather than one
- Perform some soft tissue release with a foam roller or a ball
- Ice and/or anti-inflammatory medication, particularly if sleep is disturbed by pain.
How can physiotherapy help?
- Thorough assessment to confirm the cause of pain and contributors to your pain experience
- Education on what to do to help your pain
- Release of the tight muscles/joints/reduce sensitivity using massage, joint mobilisations and/or dry needling, acupuncture.
- Taping to assist with symptom relief
- Specific, individualised exercise program to help decrease/manage pain as well as tostrengthen surrounding muscles
**Note – “exercising” the shoulder by doing housework, gardening, going to the gym is not the same as the specific exercises the physio will prescribe