A torn rotator cuff can come about for a variety of reasons. For most of us it will simply be as a result of wear and tear as we get older. This is an injury that is most common in the over fifties but can also be acquired through a knock or fall or even simply through a repetitive action such as throwing a baseball. This is why it is sometimes referred to as pitcher’s shoulder.
Surgery tends to be restricted to the unfortunate few who either manage a complete rotator cuff tear or whose injury does not respond to conventional treatment.
So what is the best form of torn rotator cuff treatment?
Firstly rest! You need to let the muscle heal and if you carry on using it, either it will slow down the recovery process or the worst case scenario is that you will make the injury worse. Depending on which of the rotator cuff muscles you have damaged some of your shoulder movements will be painful. The classic symptoms for a Supraspinatus tear for example are pain when lifting your arm above shoulder height or reaching for anything, pain when reaching behind you and difficulty sleeping because the shoulder is so tender. If you carry on doing the movements that are painful you are going to further damage the muscle which could result in a full thickness tear that will definitely need surgery.
Secondly, treat the inflammation and pain. This could be done with anti-inflammatory drugs such as Ibuprofen or with cortisone injections. Treating the inflammation will often alleviate the pain simply because a lot of the pain in shoulder injuries is caused by swollen tendons getting pinched. Ultra sound can also be used to help with the inflammation and help to improve healing.
Once the muscle has settled down and movement has become easier you can start exercising the rotator cuff muscles to strengthen them. These exercises will be small exercises with little or no weight or resistance. These are small muscles that often suffer injury as a result of neglect. Most of us are unaware of the importance of these muscles until we suffer an injury, but they are key to a healthy shoulder joint, holding the arm into the socket as we lift and move. A small increase in strength of the rotator cuff can have a dramatic affect on the overall strength of the shoulder joint.