“What is the rotator cuff and why is it a common cause for shoulder pain?”
Rotator cuff injuries are the most common injury to the shoulder, accumulating as many as 4.5 million physician visits per year! Rotator cuff injuries most commonly occur due to multiple factors including repetitive injury as well as age-related changes to the shoulder joint. So what is the rotator cuff and why does it hurt?
The shoulder joint is a ball and socket joint combining the humerus and scapula that offers us a high amount of mobility. However, joints that have great mobility tend to lack stability and can be susceptible to injury. The rotator cuff is a group of four muscle tendons that insert into the shoulder joint and act primarily as shoulder stabilizers. the bigger muscle groups move the shoulder joint.
Injury to the rotator cuff can be as little as a strain of 1 muscle tendon or complete rupture of 3 or more tendons also known as a rotator cuff tear. Injuries can also happen abruptly or develop slowly over time. Research shows that overhead activities, primarily those used with the dominant arm, are more prone to chronic issues with their rotator cuff. Therefore, activities such as baseball, swimming, volleyball, carpentry, painting, etc are all common causes of injury to the rotator cuff.
So, what role do chiropractors play in the treatment of rotator cuff injuries?
Research has shown us that non-traumatic rotator cuff injuries should first be managed conservatively, with surgery being the alternative option. Chiropractors are trained in areas such as spinal and joint manipulation as well as corrective and therapeutic exercises that can help regain range of motion and improved function of the shoulder.
Tashjian RZ Epidemiology, natural history, and indications for treatment of rotator cuff tears. Clin Sports Med. 2012 Oct;31(4):589-604.
Oh LS, Wolf BR, Hall MP, Levy BA, Marx RG. Indications for rotator cuff repair: a systematic review. Clin Orthop Relat Res 2007;455:52-63