The Rotator Cuff is a group of four important muscles that connect the upper arm bone to the shoulder blade. Tendons are the part of your muscle that connect to bone and the tendons of the rotator cuff encapsulate around the upper arm bone to secure it into the socket of the shoulder joint. As such, the main function of the rotator cuff is to provide stability at the shoulder joint. The rotator cuff is also involved in lifting and rotating your arm.
A rotator cuff tear typically occurs along the tendon and this is why rotator cuff tears can be so painful and result in weakening of your shoulder. The muscles involved in the rotator cuff complex are the teres major, infraspinatus, supraspinatus and subscapularis. The most common type of rotator cuff tear involves the supraspinatus muscle.
Many rotator cuff injuries are asymptomatic and increase in frequency as we age. The two main causes of this type of injury are acute or chronic. An acute injury involves a sudden powerful movement that tears of one of the tendons. A chronic tear would be a tear that has developed over time due to repetitive degeneration of the tendon. Other factors that may be cause a tear include:
- Your anatomy-specifically the shape and size of the bones of your shoulder girdle such as your acromion.
- Your posture-poor posture and rounded shoulders can increase the tension on your rotator cuff muscles
- Repetitive overhead activity-this position puts the most strain on your rotator cuff
Some of the signs to be aware of are shoulder pain and discomfort, pain with activity, pain while resting or pain when the shoulder is above the horizontal position.
Tears of the rotator cuff can be classified into a partial or full thickness tears. A partial tear refers to the fraying of a muscle tendon that is still intact with the bones. A full thickness tear can be classified as a complete rupture of the tendon from the bone or a “pin point or button hole” tear that is going through the tendon.
The rotator cuff muscles are a very unique group of muscles in are body that take lots of abuse overtime. The best thing you can do to avoid this situation is to follow the proper preventative measures.
- Performing regular shoulder, neck and upper back exercises to maintain strength and flexibility
- Performing rotator cuff strengthening exercises
- Performing postural muscle strengthening exercises
- Utilizing proper form and posture when lifting or moving heavy weights
- Resting the shoulder when experiencing pain
- Taking adequate rest periods in occupations that require repetitive lifting and reaching
- Visiting a massage therapist regularly to mobilize your upper back and tight shoulder muscles
- Visiting a physiotherapist right away if you are experiencing any pain in your shoulder
Contact us today if you would like one of our highly trained professionals including registered massage therapists or registered physiotherapists to assess your shoulder and help you recover from a rotator cuff tear or to learn specific strategies to prevent this type of injury!
Written By: Giuliano Calleri – Registered Massage Therapist