Rotator cuff tears in the shoulder are a common injury we see in our Mt Eden physiotherapy clinic. However, you do not need to put up with the pain and limitations these cause. Physiotherapy management of rotator cuff tears is very effective in reducing pain and improving your function.
The rotator cuff is a group of four small muscles that surround the shoulder joint. Their tendons attach to the humerus, close to the joint line and act as a cuff that provides support and control to the shoulder. They also play a primary role in creating rotational movements of the shoulder.
Rotator cuff tears are common injuries. They can occur in any of the four muscles. Usually they tear at the weakest point, which is the junction between the muscle and bone. These tears are common in racket and throwing sports and are one of the leading causes of shoulder pain. The prevalence of rotator cuff tears increases as we age due to age related degenerative changes in the tissues.
Many people have rotator cuff tears with no symptoms at all, and are unaware of the injury. However, for others, these tears can be very painful and lead to difficulty moving the shoulder, particularly with overhead activities. Range of movement is restricted, the arm feels weak and function is limited. They often experience pain that radiates down to the arm but not past the elbow. Night pain, which can cause sleep disturbances, is common.
It is interesting to note that the size of a tear is not necessarily related to the amount of pain and dysfunction experienced. Small tears sometimes creating large problems and large tears going unnoticed.
Movements that create a rapid twisting motion or overstretching of the shoulder often cause rotator cuff tears. These tears can be acute or chronic. Acute tears are caused by a sudden increase in load applied to the tendon such as a fall onto an outstretched hand or lifting a bag that is heavier than expected. Chronic tears develop over a period of time or related to degenerative changes, where tendon tissue is damaged by everyday activities due to reduced strength and elasticity.
Other causes of rotator cuff tears include overuse, lifting or carrying heavy objects and repetitive overhead activities. Poor biomechanics causes weakening of the shoulder’s tendons due to the way the load is put through the shoulder. This can leave the tendon more susceptible to injury as is a significant contributing factor to the development of tears and the outcomes of recovery.
The primary objectives of physiotherapy treatment are to reduce pain, increase range of motion and strength and improve shoulder function. Our experienced physiotherapists will work with you to help set goals and assist you to reach them with a targeted rehabilitation program, manual therapy and education on how to achieve the most from your recovery. Our physiotherapists tailor the program to your needs and are not about recipe treatments.
While severe tears are often repaired surgically, research is increasingly showing that even in severe tears, a comprehensive rehabilitation program under a physiotherapist leads to similar outcomes to surgery. For this reason, an active management approach, guided by a physiotherapist, is often recommended to patients as the first option for treatment. The exact time frame of treatment and recovery will vary from person to person and is affected by a variety of factors including if surgical repair was chosen, the severity of the injury and function prior to injury.
If you have injured your shoulder or rotator cuff, don’t put up with the pain and limitations any longer. Make an appointment with one of highly trained physiotherapists today at our Mt Eden physiotherapy clinic.