Have you ever felt a pop or pain in your shoulder while stretching to grab an item behind you? Do you feel pain in your shoulders when you lift your arms above your head? These may be symptoms of injury around the tendons of the shoulder known as Rotator Cuff Syndrome.
The shoulder is a very mobile joint and gets its stability from the muscles and tendons arranged in a cup or cuff-like manner, around the joint. These structures may be injured from sudden movement that tears the tendon, as seen when you lift a heavy item or overuse from repetitive, overhead activity as seen in painting, carpentry, playing tennis or volleyball.
Some people get rotator cuff injury even without having an aggravating factor and they are found to have weakness or poor control of the muscles around the shoulder.
What are the symptoms of Rotator Cuff Syndrome?
The pain is felt in front of the shoulder and often radiates down into the mid-arm and worsens whenever the person reaches overhead. If this injury is left untreated, the pain may be felt while at rest. The person may experience decreased range of motion in the shoulder especially when lifting the arm.
How do I treat my shoulder pain?
The treatment of rotator cuff injury is dependent on the severity of the injury and it is aimed at controlling the inflammation in the tendons and restoring the range of motion and strength so that you can improve the function of your shoulder.
An ice pack can be applied as soon as the injury occurs. It can be applied for fifteen minutes. You can make your own ice pack by putting ice cubicles in a plastic bag and then wrap the plastic bag in a towel to prevent skin irritation from the ice directly placed on your skin. Icing can be done 3- 4 times per day.
Over-the-counter, anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen or naproxen can be taken with food for short periods.
Basic Exercise for Shoulder Pain
- Pendulum Exercise
A basic exercise program may begin with pendulum exercise.
This is done by leaning forward and allowing the affected shoulder and arm to hang down freely. Start by rotating your arm in small circles, in one direction then switch direction.
Count to 10 each time. Start with very small circles and increase the size of the circle every day as the pain improves until you can make a large circle without pain.
- Wall Crawl
Another exercise that you can try for treating your shoulder pain is to use your fingers to crawl up a wall. Crawl as far up as you can get without pain and as the pain improves, try to crawl higher each day.
- Glass Wipe
Hold a soft cloth in your hand, stand in front of a large mirror or glass, even a wall with a smooth surface. Bend your elbow and raise your hand to your eye level, start by wiping a small area in one direction and then change direction. As your pain improves over time, increase the size of the circle.
If the pain persists, a doctor will recommend therapy where ultrasound and other treatments are added. In some cases, a steroid injection around the shoulder in the inflamed area may be necessary.
Surgery may be necessary if the pain persists even with treatment or if there is a complete tear of the tendon.
Avoid aggravating activities during shoulder rehabilitation and comply with a home exercise program to improve and resolve your shoulder pain.