Alright, You've injured your shoulder but how will you know what you have done to it? Firstly the shoulder joint consists of bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments and cartilage. If someone had invented the shoulder they would be winning prizes for the flexibility and complexity of it. There are three different involved, The humerus, the clavicle or collar bone and the shoulder blade all feature. Seventeen different muscles plus the tendons, ligaments and cartilage. A couple of the most frequent injuries to shoulders are a rotator cuff tear and a frozen shoulder and it is best not to confuse the two because the treatnments are quite different.
With a frozen shoulder the capsule surrounding the joint becomes damaged, resulting in scar tissue forming. The capsule contracts and any movement of the joint is painful. However, if you have damaged your rotator cuff then you will only get pain with certain movements. The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that keep the shoulder stable and help with movement especially any movement that is above shoulder height. Your shoulder joint is a very shallow ball and socket joint. Without these muscles to keep the ball in place, we would put our shoulder out of joint everytime that we lifted anything or threw anything. These muscles are easily damaged whenever we are working at height, lifting or throwing. The commonest injuries to the rotator cuff are caused by repetitive movements, knocks or just plain wear and tear as we age.
I damaged my supraspinatus which is one of the four rotator cuff muscles. Sadly it is the muscle that runs through a channel of bone on the acromion (part of the shoulder blade), so when It tore and started to swell I ended up with a shoulder impingement. The result was loss of strength in my arm, pain whenever I tried lifting my arm or moving it behind me. Tucking in my T-shirt, pint of beer, lifting anything onto a shelf became painful and as time went by it just deteriorated.
What was happening was that the swollen, damaged tendon was now bunching up whenever I used it and getting pinched inside the channel of bone. The gap that it normally ran through was now too small, so everytime I moved my arm with certain movements it was catching on the bone and getting more worn. So I had no choice but to rest it and wait for the inflammation to calm down. It is onlywhen you are forced to rest it that you realise just how much you use your arm and shoulder. You can't carry on because the pain is is telling you that more damage is being done, eventually,if you manage to overcome the pain, you could end up snapping the tendon all together and then there is a whole heap of problems.
Depending on the severity of the injury you may be advised to have surgery to free up the trapped muscle to allow it to heal. But Rest, treatment of the inflammation followed by exercises to build up the rotator cuff muscles may be all you need.
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My name is Nick Bryant and I tore my rotator cuff lifting something that was too heavy. Despite being told that I would need surgery I have managed a full recovery with just exercise. Check out one of my other articles on the rotator cuff
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