With nearly one third of us will suffer a rotator cuff injury at some time in our lives, I can't help believing that if we all did shoulder exercises as part of our daily routine, we would probably be able to significantly reduce that number.
Eight million Americans will suffer from a shoulder problem related to the rotator cuff this year alone. So what causes it and what is the best way to treat it?
The rotator cuff is a reasonably small but vital group of muscles that stabilise the shoulder joint. The shoulder joint consists of a very shallow ball and socket joint. The ball at the top of the upper arm or humerus rests on the socket of the shoulder joint that is on the outer edge of the scapula. You could think of it like a golf ball sitting on a tee. The muscles of the rotator cuff all run from the shoulder blade to the head of the upper arm pulling it into place, creating a cuff of muscle which helps to keep the joint stable and stop it from dislocating each time that we lift our arm above shoulder height or lift something heavy.
If we didn't have the rotator cuff muscles it would be very easy to knock the ball off the tee, great in golf but not really what we want with a shoulder joint.
This group of muscles work hardest whenever there is a downward force on our shoulder. If you are working overhead, lifting or reaching for something they kick in to maintain the stability of the shoulder.
Which is why, when you hurt any of them, you feel pain when you lift your arm up or out to the side.
As we age these muscles begin to weaken, usually through lack of use so we are more susceptible to this type of injury once we hit forty, although some sportsman are at risk as is anyone who is continually working above shoulder height, decorators, painters etc..
Fortunately the majority of rotator cuff problems can be solved with exercise. The typical rotator cuff treatment will start with rest to allow the muscle to start healing, coupled with treatment of any inflammation or swelling with non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. A lot of the pain in a rotator cuff injury is down to the inflammation where swollen tendons can get caught or pinched. It is vital to let the muscles heal and any swelling to reduce before beginning any physical therapy.
Trying to work through a rotator cuff injury will only cause more damage and can even lead to you needing surgery.
Once the inflammation has gone and everything has settled down you need to do some shoulder specific exercises aimed at strengthening the rotator cuff muscles. You will usually find that within about six weeks, you can get your shoulder joint back to movement without experiencing any pain simply by following a rotator cuff treatment programme.
Once you have, then it is essential to continue with the exercises to make sure that your shoulders stay fit, healthy and trouble free.
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If you want to know how rotator cuff treatment stopped me needing shoulder surgery check out my story at my blog
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