Okay, I know that if you have a rotator cuff injury right now the last thing you need is some happy person being glib about how to put it right, but the truth is that for a lot of us rotator cuff rehab is really very simple. The only exceptions to that are if you have either managed to acquire a full thickness rotator cuff tear or a bad rotator cuff tear. If you have then you'll be booking corrective surgery before you are able to start using your shoulder again.
But, as I said, for the majority of us rotator cuff rehab is relatively simple.
The first thing that you need to understand is the nature of the injury that you have, because when you do, then you begin to understand just how you are going to sort it out.
A rotator cuff injury is an injury to the muscles of the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff is made up of four muscles that all connect to the shoulder blade at one end and the top of humerus or upper arm at the other. What they do, in the great scheme of things, is to hold the arm in place as you move. Depending on how you move, different muscles within the group work harder. Once your arm is above shoulder height your rotator cuff is working at its hardest to prevent the ball of the humerus coming away from the socket of the shoulder joint
This is why when you damage your rotator cuff it always seems to hurt worst when you lift your arm above shoulder height or reach for something.
the muscles are all grouped closely together forming a cuff of muscle around the joint to help stabilise it. They run over the surface of the shoulder blade. One of them, the supraspinatus runs through a channel of bone at the top of the shoulder blade before it attaches to the humerus.
This is the tendon that causes the most trouble with a cuff injury because when it becomes inflamed and starts to swell it has nowhere to go so it starts to get trapped or impinged by the bone which causes further injury and pain. Think of it like an old being rubbed against a hard surface. Sooner or later it will start to fray and eventually it will snap.
So if you want a rotator cuff to heal completely there really are omly three steps.
Step one, rest the muscles to let it heal. That means avoiding any movement that causes pain. That may involve changing the way that you work for a week or two or even taking some time off.
Step two, work on the the inflammation. Try anti-inflammatory drugs like Ibuprofen and start using ice packs whenever you can. If that doesn't work ask your doctor for a steroid injection.
Step three, once the cuff has settled down start a simple course of shoulder specific physical therapy exercises designed to strengthen and rebuild the muscles of the rotator cuff. These will be small movements with light weights or low resistance that isolate and exercise this small but important group of muscles.
It's quite simple really. Muscles won't get better unless you rest them. Carrying on through a rotator cuff injury will cause more damage. Let the swelling go down before you start exercise and do exercises that strengthen the right muscles.
Told you it was simple! I know because that's exactly how I fixed my shoulder.
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