What are the Rotator Cuff Muscles?
The rotator cuff is a group of muscles which work together to provide the Glenohumeral (shoulder) joint with dynamic stability, helping to control the joint during rotation (hence the name). The rotator cuff muscles include:
- Teres Major
Due to the function of these muscles, sports which involve a lot of shoulder rotation for example, bowling in cricket, pitching in baseball, swimming and kayaking etc often put the rotator cuff muscles under a lot of stress.
Problems with the rotator cuff muscles can be classed into two categories: Tears of the tendons/muscles, and inflammation of the muscle or tendon.
This tends to happen as a result of a sudden, powerful movement. This might include falling over onto an outstretched hand at speed, making a sudden thrust with the paddle in kayaking, or following a powerful pitch/throw. Symptoms often include a sudden pain in the shoulder which may radiate down the arm; reduce movement at the shoulder; specific tenderness over the point of injury and pain when trying to raise the arm out to the side or when rotating the shoulder joint.
Chronic tears are those which develop more slowly, usually due to repeated overhead or other forceful movements. They usually occur in the dominent side and are more common in those over 40. The pain tends to be worse at night and can affect sleeping; the shoulder joint may have reduced mobility and pain on raising the arm out to the side of rotating the shoulder.
Inflammatory conditions occur when there is no tear, but usually the tendon has become inflamed due to repeated use. This is more common in women than men and especially those betwee 35 and 50. The symptoms include an ache in the shoulder which feels deep inside the joint; some specific tenderness in places; a gradual onset of pain which flares up with use and eases with rest.
Treatment of rotator cuff injuries is initially the same as all muscle injuries - rest; ice; compression and elevation to ease pain and reduce swelling and inflammation. Your Doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory meds.
After this, once the pain is easing, mobility exercises may be performed to regain full movement and improve posture at the shoulder (especially in overuse injuries). Strengthening can begin once pain-free to regain full strength in the rotator cuff muscles.
Shoulder cold wraps are great for shoulder injuries as they allow you to apply cold and compression at the same time, easily and cleanly! A shoulder support may be used after the initial acute stage to encourage blood flow and keep the joint warm and less painful. Resistance bands are great for shoulder strengthening exercises as they can be used for all muscle groups and the resistance can be increased as you progress.