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Fast Pitch, Slow Pitch, NO PITCH: Common Rotator Cuff Problems

Rotator Cuff

By Kieran Loving, ATC

Who hasn’t used their shoulder at some point? Whether you play a sport like baseball, volleyball, football, etc. or not, you use your shoulder pretty much anytime you move your upper body. Our shoulders help us complete those everyday movements we often don’t think twice about. Think about reaching up to get something off the pantry shelf. In my house, I like to store things higher because it’s easier for me. However, my wife, who is 4’11”, doesn’t always agree with this decision. But what if I wasn’t able to store things up high due to shoulder pain or immobility? While she might be happy, I would need to alter my day to day routine.

At the center of all shoulder injuries is the rotator cuff. It’s common for us to hear people come into physical therapy with a shoulder problem and say, “I think it’s my rotator cuff, I think I tore it.” So what exactly is the rotator cuff? Where is it located? Is it one muscle? Is it a joint? Why is it important?

The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint. The rotator cuff keeps the head of your upper arm bone firmly within the shoulder socket. It is made up of the SITS muscles:

  • Supraspinatus,
  • Infraspinatus,
  • Teres minor
  • Subscapularis

Some common injuries to the rotator cuff include impingement syndrome, a strain and a partial or complete tear. Some common signs and symptoms you might notice include but are not limited to:

  • Pain at rest and at night, particularly if you are lying on the affected shoulder
  • Pain when lifting and lowering your arm or with specific movements
  • Weakness when lifting or rotating your arm
  • Crepitus or crackling sensation when moving your shoulder in certain positions
  • Reduced range of motion
  • Inability or difficulty to dress especially coats and jackets
  • Overall reduction in shoulder ability

What should I do if I’m experiencing any of these symptoms?

The good news is that physical therapy can help handle your rotator cuff injuries and any shoulder problem for that matter. Through an individualized plan of care specific to your needs, we will guide you through targeted strengthening and targeted stretching. This will increase your range of motion, function, endurance, strength and get you and your shoulder back to a healthy relationship. We will also incorporate hand-on, manual therapy. At Loudoun Sports Therapy Center, we have plenty of success stories from the advanced athlete that needs there shoulder to compete, to the child who wants to be able to grab cookies off the kitchen shelf to the grandparent who wants to be able to pick up their grand kid.

What if I need surgery?

We can help there too! At Loudoun Sports Therapy Center, we will provide a rehabilitation program designed to help strengthen and maintain any functional movements you currently have before a surgical procedure.  We will also be here from the time you complete surgery to the time you return to work and play.

Don’t let shoulder pain stop you from being the person you want to be. Work, kids, play, workouts, even rock climbing, whatever your goal is, we can get you back to that. Rotator cuff injuries are not permanent and physical therapy should be your first stop in trying to regain those activities that are important to you in your life.  Sleep will also become easier without that night pain and shifting positions trying to figure out what is the most comfortable position. Call LSTC TODAY at 703-450-4300 and let us help you to get those shoulders functioning the way they should.

CLICK HERE for as self test you can try to assess for a common shoulder injury.