Shoulder injuries are extremely common. This joint has a wide range of mobility but with that comes a high degree of instability and potential for injury. Studies have shown that roughly of 30% of us all have some degree of rotator cuff compromise even if it is not all symptomatic. Furthermore the prevalence of rotator cuff injuries only increase as we age with some studies showing as high as a 50% prevalence in those over 80 years old.
Rotator cuff injuries are not limited only to athletes. They are often the result of repetitious use or injuries such as falls or sudden trauma. There are several factors that predispose us to injuries of the rotator cuff. While possessing any single one of these risk factors is not a guarantee of eventual rotator cuff tearing, the more we possess the greater the probability.
Commonly associated risk factors associated with rotator cuff tendinopathy:
- Engaging in repetitious overhead activity (common in construction / contractors)
- Sudden trauma (car accidents, falls, blunt trauma, etc.)
- Connective tissue weakening disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis
- Age (more common as we grow older)
- Repetitious or abrupt heavy lifting, pushing, or pulling
- Certain sports (baseball pitchers, swimming, tennis)
- Bone spur formation within the shoulder
- Musculoskeletal imbalances or misalignments of the shoulder that impair normal function
Not all shoulder pain is related to rotator cuff tears. There are some common signs and symptoms that you should look for that might tip you off that you may in fact have such an injury.
- Pain (commonly along the outside of the shoulder and arm but can occur in the front or back of the shoulder as well)
- Sudden loss of range of motion (this is a common sign of more substantial injury)
- Pain with elevating your arm overhead, to the side, or when reaching behind the back
- Pain that dramatically increases with exertion or resistance
- Pain when lying upon the injured shoulder
Mild over-exertions usually show steady progress after a few days of rest but more substantial damage often fails to thrive with time, rest, and over the counter remedies. If you suspect that you might have more substantial rotator cuff injury contact your physical therapist or physician for further consultation to help you determine the severity of your injury and the proper course of action.