Having torn my rotator cuff a few months back and experiencing a lot of pain and discomfort on an ongoing basis for several weeks I decided to research the subject and learn as much as I could about my rotator cuff and why it can be so painful when you injure it.
The phrase rotator cuff suggests that there is just one of them but in actual fact the rotator cuff is comprised of a group of four different muscles that together are responsible for moving the shoulder and stabalising the shoulder joint. They are all grouped around the shoulder and run across the front, back, bottom and top of the shoulder joint. Some of the muscles run under each other and they all run under and over the bones of the joint.
So, depending on which of them you damage, if the damaged muscle gets inflamed and starts to swell you end up with the swollen muscle getting pinched or impinged, either between other muscles or by one of the bones such as the collar bone or shoulder blade. When you try moving the inflamed muscle, tendons can literally start to fray like old rope. Each movement will be painful.
So, is there anything you can do about it? I tried a variety of things, high dosage Ibuprofen, a steroid injection into the rotator cuff muscle as well as cold compresses to reduce the swelling. All gave me some relief but nothing managed to sort it out completely so I was offered an operation to shave away a piece of bone to free up the impinged tendon so that it could heal.
Being UK based the operation date was three months away so I started researching the subject. I discovered what I had been doing wrong. The key to a successful recovery is rest. Proper rest avoiding any movement that causes pain. In all honesty I had paid lip service to resting my shoulder and had carried on doing some things that caused pain. So I rested my shoulder properly and used ice packs and anti-inflammatories to work on the inflammation..
Gradually the joint began to settle down and after a couple of weeks I was able to start some easy Pilates based exercises aimed at developing flexibility and control whilst strengthening the muscles. The exercises started easily with movements that I could do despite my injury all the time taking care not to cause any discomfort and gradually built up until full pain free movement had returned. Just ten weeks after I started the programme I played my first round of golf in nearly six months. Obviously I was out of practice and well below my normal performance but six months ago I could barely think about lifting a golf club yet alone contemplate taking a swing at a ball.
My operation date has passed. I postponed and I am confident that barring accidents, I will not be going ahead with it. My theory is that the exercises improved my posture sufficiently to free up the impinged tendons on their own. I know that as we get older our posture changes. I know that I am holding my shoulders a bit straighter these days. Maybe by re-educating our bodies and waking up a few lazy muscles we can sort out lots of potential health problems.
In the meantime I am carrying on with the exercises. One rotator cuff injury is enough for anyone.
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where I give more information on rotator cuff strengthening exercises
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