The phrase rotator cuff injury covers a huge range of potential shoulder problems which all have one thing in common in that one of the four muscles in the rotator cuff has become damaged either as the result of plain simple wear and tear or through it being overloaded perhaps by lifting something that was too heavy or in some cases by a blow or a fall. With so many different ways to injure them how do we know what to do to fix rotator cuff muscles.
The cuff muscles hold the ball at the head of the humerus (upper arm bone) into the socket of the shoulder joint that is formed by the outer edge of the shoulder blade. It is different to teh hip loint in that the ball of the shoulder joint is much larger than the socket in which it sits so this group of muscles all attach onto the arm and the shoulder blade surrounding the shoulder in a cuff of muscle and helping to keep it stable.
Whenever you lift something the muscles tense up to hold your shoulder in place. Whenever you move your arm above shoulder height these muscles pull the joint together and prevent it from dislocating. These are small but important muscles but they are also muscles that we often neglect. If you do neglect them, sooner or later they will let you down especially as we get older. Some sportsmen put these muscles under huge strain by overusing them, Baseball pitchers is the classic example, lots of snappy movement above shoulder height when these muscles are at most risk. Painters and decorators who work overhead often suffer from rotator cuff injuries.
So having worked out that a lot of shoulder injuries come about as a result of neglect, it should not come as any surprise that the best way to fix rotator cuff muscles nearly always involves exercises to build up and strengthen them. If you have damaged this set of muscles the most important thing is to allow them to rest properly. It is vital to let them heal naturally for two or three weeks and to avoid load bearing exercise as well as any movement that causes pain.
It may be that you need to alter the way that you work, reorganise your desk or even stop driving for a while. It is worth doing simply because it speeds up the healing time dramatically
Once the muscle has rested and healed you then need to start strengthening them. This should always involve exercise with little or no resistance as these muscles are small. Using large weights will simply work on the wrong muscles and may well cause further injury. Pilates style exercises are ideal for this as they work on control and flexibility and use your bodies natural resistance to strengthen muscles.
It is vital that you never try to work through a rotator cuff injury. Taking pain killers and carrying on is a short term fix that is likely to lead to long term problems. Depending on which one of the muscles or tendons you have damaged you end up with an injury that needs surgery if you ignore it.
Unfortunately there are some injuries that will need surgery. If you have managed to tear the muscle badly surgery might well be needed to clean up the tear to help it to heal. Some rotator cuff result in a shoulder impingement. This could well go go with rest and exercise but if it is stubborn and doesn't get better you may need surgery to help it.
The good news is that most shoulder surgery these days is keyhole surgery with quick recovery times and a very high success rate so don't soldier on with a bad shoulder.
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