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What is the Rotator Cuff?
The rotator cuff is a group of 4 muscles that allow for stability and movement of the shoulder joint. These muscles include:
The primary function of the rotator cuff is to act as a dynamic stabilizer and to hold the head of the humerus in place.
What is a Rotator Cuff Tear?
A rotator cuff tear is a tear or loss of integrity of one of the 4 rotator cuff muscles. The tear can be graded 1-3. A grade 1 tear occurs when there is minimal tearing and only minimal loss of range of motion and strength.
A grade 2 tear is a partial rotator cuff tear with more severe symptoms. A grade 3 tear is a full thickness rotator cuff tear, which is associated with severe loss of range of motion and strength.
The most commonly affected muscle is the supraspinatus muscle.
The tear can be acute from a trauma or they can occur over time due to repetitive strain and degeneration.
What causes a Rotator Cuff Tear?
Any motion that puts excessive strain on the rotator cuff can result in a tear.
This may include:
Lifting objects that are unexpectedly heavy.
Overhead throwing with increased speed.
A fall on outstretched arm.
Chronic repetitive impingement – this may occur over time with overhead activities such as volleyball, throwing or overhead work.
What are the signs and symptoms of a Rotator Cuff Tear?
Pain in the top or down the side of the shoulder/upper arm.
Pain behind or in between the shoulder blade.
Possible numbness or tingling down the shoulder, arm, forearm or hand.
Pain may be aggravated by:
Reaching behind (i.e. to put on a bra)
Pain may be relieved by:
Scapular retraction exercises
Rotator Cuff Tear Treatment North Vancouver at Mountain Health & Performance:
Grade 1-2 tears can be managed without surgery while 50% of grade 3 tears can also be managed without surgery. Rotator cuff tear treatment at Mountain Health & Performance may include the following:
Laser Therapy: Therapeutic laser can help to improve blood flow and speed healing. It can also be useful short term for pain relief.
Myofascial Release Therapy: Myofascial release therapy targeted to capsule and muscular tension around the rotator cuff, spine and neck can help to reduce impingement of the rotator cuff, which can lead to tears in the first place.
Rehabilitation: The main goal of rehabilitation is to increase range of motion, strengthen the shoulder and to prevent frozen shoulder.These exercises will be targeted at relieving tension and of strengthening the rotator cuff, scapular stabilizers and spine. The exercises will be different for each patient because the location and grade of the tear, the length of time after injury & severity of pain and range of motion loss will all affect the exercises that are prescribed. Exercises can hurt or help the shoulder so they need to be appropriate for the individual patient. At mountain health and performance our chiropractors have extensive experience treating all types of shoulder injuries and will be able to help properly diagnose the severity and stage of your shoulder injury along with the dysfunction that needs to be address with treatment and rehabilitation.