The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons located in your shoulder that aid in shoulder movement and function. When Rotator cuff tendonitis occurs, there are small microtears in your muscles or tendons that cause inflammation and pain. This often occurs as an overuse injury. It is more common with individuals over the age of 30 and if not treated can cause stiffness, and loss of function. If tendonitis is not treated it can result in a tear. Many people that experience rotator cuff tears are able to decrease their symptoms with physical therapy and strengthening the muscles surrounding the shoulder. When the tear occurs from a single event surgery is usually recommended.
Typical symptoms that you might feel are: pain in the upper outer arm, pain increases as you lift overhead, pain or difficulty reaching behind you, pain that wakes you up at night, clicking when moving your arm overhead, loss of strength or motion, joint stiffness, dull ache “deep” in shoulder, difficulty combing hair.
There are several origins of shoulder pain. Most commonly it is caused by repetitive overhead movements, overuse injuries, stiffness in shoulder joint because of other injuries surrounding the shoulder, age, heavy duty or construction jobs, family history, or a traumatic single event injury.
If your shoulder is hurting you should start with rest, heat (10 min) and ice (15 min). Taking anti-inflammatory medications such as Advil or Ibuprofen as instructed on the label. If symptoms do not resolve withing 2 weeks you should consider seeing your primary care physician or orthopedic doctor. They may try a steroid injection and recommend physical therapy which usually helps to reduce pain and improve function. Rarely surgery is needed, but if it is necessary working with your orthopedic doctor will be key. After surgery is performed you will be in physical therapy for several weeks to improve motion, strength, and return to your functional activities.
Brian Cragun, PT, DPT