Physiotherapy Treatment for a Rotator Cuff Injury

Physiotherapy is as effective in managing a rotator cuff injury problem as surgery. At Susan Quin Physiotherapy, I will examine your shoulder and recommend ways to manage the pain. I will prescribe exercises to strengthen the rotator cuff and your upper back and exercises to prevent shoulder stiffness.

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Common symptoms of rotator cuff injury

Shoulder pain is the most common symptom. Often pain on movements like putting your hand into the sleeve of your coat, reaching up overhead to a high cupboard, reaching behind to a bra strap or brushing your hair. Overhead movements may be difficult because of weakness. It is also common to have pain at night if you lie on the sore shoulder. The pain tends to get worse over time if you continue to use the shoulder as usual.

What is the rotator cuff?

The rotator cuff is one of the most important parts of the shoulder. It is made up of a group of four muscles and tendons that hold the bones of the shoulder joint together. They connect the shoulder blade to the upper arm and work together to stabilise the shoulder joint. The rotator cuff muscles provide you with the ability to lift your arm and reach overhead. When you do raise your arm the rotator cuff steadies the shoulder and creates a smooth movement.

What is a rotator cuff injury?

Shoulder pain is a very common problem and at least 70% of patients presenting with shoulder pain have problems with the rotator cuff. Rotator cuff problems can be divided into rotator cuff tendinopathy, tears and impingements.

What is a rotator cuff tendinopathy, tear and impingement

A rotator cuff tendinopathy happens when the tendon has to deal with more load than it can manage. The amount of load (work) the tendon can cope with will depend on your age, activity and fitness. An athlete like a tennis player who is used to using their shoulder everyday may be able to cope with large loads but an older person who is not as physically active may not be able to do so. A small change in the load (e.g. painting a ceiling or suddenly playing tennis more than usual) may be enough to hurt the tendon.

A rotator cuff tear is most common in people over 40 years. Tears often result from a fall on the shoulder or outstretched arm. The tendons can be partially or fully torn. People who tear their tendon may have a history of tendinopathy. It is possible to tear the rotator cuff tendon and not have any shoulder pain.

The rotator cuff may be impinged. This could be because the tendon was injured and swollen or because the joint space between the shoulder and the joint above it called the acromioclavicular joint (the joint between the collar bone and the shoulder blade) where the tendon is, is decreased due to arthritis, degeneration or swelling. As a result there is less space for the tendons and they get squashed or impinged and injured further.

Physiotherapy treatment of the rotator cuff

  • Manual therapy to decrease stiffness, loosen tight muscles and decrease pain
  • Ice
  • Tape to support and facilitate movement
  • Strengthening exercises for the rotator cuff
  • Stabilising exercises for the shoulder blade, neck and back
  • Exercises to maintain and gain movement
  • Advice on daily activities and how they affect the rotator cuff

Other treatments of the rotator cuff include:

Relative Rest
It means you stop the activity that aggravates the pain (overhead or repetitious). But you never stop moving your shoulder as this keeps it healthy and strong and prevents you getting a stiff shoulder. Physiotherapy treatment guides you on relative rest.

Medication 
Your GP can prescribe painkillers and anti-inflammatories.

Injection 
A steroid injection from a Shoulder consultant may settle the pain to facilitate you to move and strengthen your rotator cuff. Physiotherapy exercises will then help you to move and strengthen your shoulder.

Surgery
Surgery can be considered when all other options have not helped. Surgery can increase the space under the outside end of the collar bone to take some of the pressure off the rotator cuff tendons. The torn tendon can be repaired. Physiotherapy treatment will assist you to rehabilitate after surgery.

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Monday: 8am-6pm
Tuesday: 6pm-8pm
Wednesday: 8am-6pm
Thursday: 8am-6pm
Friday: 8am-6pm
Saturday-Sunday: Closed

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I am located on the Dublin City side of Raheny Village beside the Raheny Nursing Home
Dart: Raheny or Harmonstown   5 minute walk
Bus:  29A, 31, 31A, 31B, 32, 32A, 32B
Bus stop outside Raheny Nursing Home or Across Road

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