In Order To Understand A Rotator Cuff Impingement It Is Best To Learn A Bit About The Make Up Of The Shoulder Joint And Problems That Can Occur.

By: Nick Bryant

The shoulder joint consists of three seperate bones, the humerus or upper arm bone, collar bone or clavicle and the scapula or shoulder blade. All of these bones affect the shoulder. Before I got a shoulder injury, I thought of my shoulder blade as a triangle of bone that was located on my back and stuck out whenever I pushed my elbows forward. I had not really given any thought to why it was shaped like that or what it did.

It is actually quite a complex piece of anatomy. Part of it forms the cup of bone, called the glenoid, that makes up half of the shoulder joint. The shoulder blade also attaches to the clavicle at the top. This part of the shoulder blade is a hook of bone that curves over at the top called the Acromion.

As well as the bones of the shoulder there are seventeen different muscles which work the shoulder as well as cartilage and ligaments that all go to make up and hold together this rather complicated joint.

The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that all fix to the scapula at one end and the humerus at the other, surrounding the joint in a cuff of muscle hence the name. They all pull the ball at the head of the upper arm bone into the socket of the glenoid. Because the socket of the shoulder is very shallow these muscles are necessary to hold the arm in place and stabilize the joint. Without them our shoulders could become easily dislocated.

One of these muscles, the supraspinatus runs through the hook of the acromion before attaching to the upper arm bone. Imagine a thin tendon running through a channel of bone. If the channel narrows or the tendon gets inflamed the tendon can rub on the bone which will start to damage the tendon leaving it vulnerable to tearing or fraying. Think of it like an old rope being rubbed against a sharp edge, after a while the rope would begin to fray and if left long enough could actually break.

The causes of rotator cuff impingement are similar to other injuries. Any injury or trauma to this particular tendon, that causes inflammation, can set off a rotator cuff impingement. Arthritis can cause the channel of bone to narrow and as we age some of us actually grow bony spurs on the acromion that narrow the channel and cause problems.

The symptoms of an impingement are shoulder pain especially when raising your arm above shoulder height or reaching out for something coupled with difficulty getting to sleep at night. A simple test that your doctor may do for an impingement is to ask you to straighten your arm with the palm facing away from your body and then to raise it up. If this is painful then you almost certainly have a rotator cuff impingement.

Don't ignore an impingement as this can cause more serious problems. Treatment starts with rest and anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce the swelling. Make sure that you avoid any overhead movements. If you work at something like plastering or painting you may need to change how you work to do away with these movements. When the muscles are rested and have started to recover you can begin physical therapy to build up the rotator cuff to prevent further injuries.

In persistent cases or if the bone has changed shape then you are almost certainly looking at coreective surgery to repair it. This will involve keyhole surgery called a sub-acromial decompression where the surgeon shaves away a piece of bone to release the tendon.

Most rotator cuff impingements are solved without surgery but it is vital to take this injury seriously and rest it, avoiding {any|| overhead movements. The pain you feel is an indicator that more damage is being done so listen to your body and let it heal.

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Nick Bryant is an older dad to a young family who suffered a">rotator cuff injury which he was told would require corrective surgery. After reading up on the condition he managed a full recovery with just rest and the right sort of exercise. Read his full story at his blog">

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