Sports

Rotator Cuff Exercises to Prevent Shoulder Pain & Rotator Cuff Injuries

rotator cuff injuries

You may not realize how often you use your shoulder until you begin feeling pain. When simple tasks like reaching up into a cupboard, brushing your hair, or reaching over to fasten your seat belt cause you pain, it begins to affect your daily life. And for athletes, the pain can put a quick stop to your training program.

Issues with the rotator cuff and tissues that surround it are the most common causes of shoulder pain in people over the age of 40. Rotator cuff tendinitis occurs when a shoulder tendon (a bundle of fibers connecting muscle to bone) is irritated and becomes sore. With continued irritation, the tendon can begin to break down, causing tendinosis, which is a more chronic condition. Every time you move your shoulder you’re using your rotator cuff to stabilize and help move the joint. People who perform repetitive or overhead arm movements, such as weight lifters, athletes, and manual laborers, are most at risk for developing issues within their rotator cuff.

How does it feel to have tendonitis in your rotator cuff?

Typically you’ll experience shoulder pain that can occur gradually over time or start quite suddenly. The pain occurs in the shoulder area and can radiate into your upper arm. It doesn’t usually go past the elbow region, however, in some cases it can. You may not experience any pain or discomfort when you’re at rest, but once you move the arm the pain can be moderate to severe. Reaching behind your body or doing overhead activities, such as throwing, swimming, reaching into a cabinet, or combing your hair can be very painful. The pain can get worse at night, especially when rolling over or sleeping on the painful side. If the condition is left untreated, it could get worse and the pain could move to other parts of the body, such as your neck.

Doing proper exercises can help to avoid a rotator cuff injury because it’s possible for your shoulder to become inflamed pretty quickly. Many people with rotator cuff issues can manage their symptoms and return to daily activities with physical therapy exercises that improve flexibility and strength of the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint.

Our team has put together a series of rotator cuff exercises that you can do a few times each week to strengthen the shoulder region and avoid pain and injury.

How is a rotator cuff injury diagnosed?

A physical therapist can assess your pain by performing an evaluation (you may even be eligible for a free consultation, call and ask for details), which may include strength and motion tests on your shoulder. They’ll talk about your job duties and hobbies, evaluate your posture, and check for any muscle imbalances and weakness that can occur in the shoulder region. Your physical therapist will then gently touch your shoulder in specific areas to determine which tendon(s) are inflamed, and may perform other special tests to detect rotator cuff tendinopathy. Generally, a physical examination is all that’s needed to diagnose rotator cuff tendinopathy. If the symptoms do not resolve with physical therapy, imaging (eg, MRI) may be considered, to help determine any possible underlying condition that could be affecting the shoulder.

How can a physical therapist help with rotator cuff pain?

It’s important to get proper treatment for tendinitis as soon as it occurs because over time, a degenerated tendon that is not treated can begin to tear, leading to a more serious condition. Physical therapy can be very successful in treating rotator cuff tendinitis, tendinosis, and shoulder impingement syndrome. Depending on your specific condition and goals, your personal treatment program may include:

Pain management. Your physical therapist will help you identify and avoid painful movements to allow the inflamed tendon to heal. Ice, massage, or moist heat may be applied for pain management.

Patient education. Posture education is an important part of rehabilitation. For example, if you sit at a computer all day you may have a tendency to roll your shoulders forward, causing the tendons in the front of the shoulder to become pinched. We may suggest adjustments to your workstation and work habits to reduce the discomfort. We may also go over certain sitting, standing, and sleeping positions to help alleviate symptoms. Finally, your physical therapist may suggest different ways to perform currently painful activities and show you movements to avoid while you’re experiencing shoulder pain.

Manual therapy. Your physical therapist may use manual techniques, such as gentle joint movements, soft-tissue massage, and shoulder stretches, to get your shoulder moving in a manner which is pain-free.

Range-of-motion exercises. You will learn exercises and stretches to help your shoulder and shoulder blade move properly, so you can return to reaching and lifting without pain.

Strengthening exercises. Your physical therapist will determine which strengthening exercises are right for you, depending on your specific condition. You may use weights, medicine balls, resistance bands, and other types of resistance training to challenge your weaker muscles. You will receive a home-exercise program, so you can continue rotator-cuff and shoulder-blade strengthening long after you have completed your formal physical therapy.

Functional training. As your symptoms improve, your physical therapist will help you return to your previous level of function, which may include household chores, job duties, and sports-related activities. Functional training can include working on lifting a glass into a cupboard or throwing a ball using proper shoulder mechanics. Speak with your physical therapist so they know what your goals are, and can get you back to your prior level of functioning as soon as possible.

Can a rotator cuff injury be prevented?

The likelihood of developing rotator cuff tendinopathy can be reduced by:

  • Being aware of repetitive movements that may lead to pain—especially over your head, across your body, or behind your back—and modifying your activity if there are any symptoms of discomfort.
  • Maintaining ideal shoulder and spinal posture during daily activities, including sitting at a computer. This can be accomplished by performing daily stretches to the shoulder and upper back to maintain normal movement. Tightness in the upper back, or a rounded shoulder posture will decrease the ability to move your torso, and that makes the shoulder have to work harder to perform everyday activities, such as reaching for objects.
  • Keeping your upper body strong, including the upper back and shoulder-blade muscles, will help prevent tendinitis. Many people work the muscles in their chest, arms, and shoulders, but it is also important to work the muscles around the shoulder blade and upper back. These muscles provide a strong foundation for your shoulder function. Without a strong foundation, muscle imbalances occur and put the shoulder at risk for injury.

 

If you have any questions about a rotator cuff injury or shoulder pain, feel free to contact us. You may be eligible for a free consultation where you’ll meet one-on-one with a physical therapist to discuss your concerns.

 

Northern Physical Therapy is part of the Ivy Rehab Network, learn more at www.ivyrehab.com.

An Athlete with Spina Bifida Uses Physical Therapy to Keep Her Game in Check

Spina bifida and physical therapy

Susie Kluting has used a wheelchair or crutches to get around her entire life, but one could argue that she’s equally comfortable on the ice. Despite being born with spina bifida, 26 year old Coopersville resident Susie has never let that get in her way. Susie has tried wheelchair tennis, wheelchair basketball, swimming, fencing, water skiing, and rock climbing. While she’s always enjoyed being active, she longed for a sport that would really speak to her – that’s where sled hockey came in.

Spina bifida and physical therapySpina bifida left Susie with limited use of her legs, but she never let her “different ability” get her down. The second youngest of six children, Susie grew up on a farm and inherited a love for animals and cheering on her siblings at their various sporting events. While she loved the years she spent showing rabbits through 4-H, riding four-wheelers with her brothers, and farm life in general, she wanted to find something new that she could do with people who were “more like her.”

At a young age Susie began trying a variety of different clinics and playing sports through Mary Free Bed. Although she tried many different sports and continued to attend sports camp every summer until she was 18, Sled Hockey is the one she excels in.

Sled hockey was invented in the early 1960s by a group of Swedes at a rehabilitation center who, despite their physical disabilities, wanted to continue playing hockey. Sled hockey follows most standard ice hockey rules, except players sit in specially designed sleds that sit on top of two hockey skate blades. Each player has two sticks which are used to hit the puck and to propel themselves.

Spina bifida and physical therapy

Northern Physical Therapy has been a big part of my recovery from all sports injuries, and they’ve helped tremendously in allowing me to maintain my ability for the past 8 years. I love the team at Northern! They’re so helpful, friendly and always happy to answer any questions I have. Northern PT has helped my independence as a young adult and made it possible for me to do daily tasks at home, take care of myself, enjoy activities with my family, and compete in team sports – for this I am so grateful. – Susie Kluting, physical therapy patient living with spina bifida

For the last six years Susie has been the Assistant Captain for the adult Grand Rapids Sled Wings, which was formed because of the high level of interest from players who were over 18, which is the age limit for the junior league. She has also been a part of the U.S.A women’s sled hockey team. Susie can even thank sled hockey for introducing her to her boyfriend Connor. They met in 2010 at a sled hockey camp in Rochester, N.Y. and have been dating since 2017.

Spina bifida and physical therapyBecause Susie is living a majority of her life in a wheelchair, and is also someone who is very active, she understands that injury is always a possibility. To keep her game in check, and to maintain her level of daily activity, Susie regularly receives physical therapy treatments, even during her off season.

Spina bifida and physical therapyHow can physical therapy help With spina bifida?
Physical therapy plays an important role in helping children and adults with spina bifida gain and maintain mobility, and function at their best throughout all stages of life. Spina bifida is a birth defect involving the spine that occurs when a baby’s “neural tube,” or fetal spinal cord, does not completely close in the early stages of development during the first month of a mother’s pregnancy.

Spina bifida may cause both physical and intellectual disabilities that range from mild to severe, depending on the size and location of the opening in the spine, and the extent to which the spinal cord and nerves are affected. Babies born with spina bifida often cannot move their legs due to weakness or paralysis resulting from spinal cord and nerve damage.

People living with spina bifida can experience partial or complete paralysis and may need assistive devices like braces, wheelchairs, or crutches. These people work with physical therapists to learn specific muscle strengthening exercises.

We can help
A spina bifida diagnosis can leave parents with many questions and concerns. If you’ve wondered how physical therapy can help you or your child, schedule a free consultation with one of our therapists. We’ll conduct an evaluation and talk about the different treatment opportunities available.

A Young Athlete Turns to Physical Therapy to Treat Pain

When you’re 13 years old and all you want to do is play basketball, it’s tough to sit on the sidelines because of pain. Grady understood this feeling all too well. The pain he felt in his knee, both during and after physical activities, kept him from running and playing basketball. An all-around athlete, and typical kid, the last thing Grady wanted was to sit out due to adolescent knee pain. That’s when he and his family turned to physical therapy.

“When Terri tested my muscle strength I was very surprised at how weak I was,” said Grady. “She explained why my hip and stomach muscles were important to my overall physical abilities and said that if we worked hard together, I could get even better at my sport because I would have more control of my body.”

Grady Before

Grady performed a set of exercises before his physical therapy treatment began. Adolescent knee pain is evident – throughout the exercises his knee is positioned poorly, bows inward, and collapses.

Grady was determined to get better, so together, he and Terri worked consistently on a personalized set of exercises to help strengthen his whole body, with the ultimate goal of strengthening his knees to prevent further pain and injury.

“Grady was such a trooper,” said Terri. “He knew he had pain and did the exercises I asked him to do to get better – even planks, which were his least favorite exercise of all!”

As a strong an dedicated athlete, Grady was anxious to get back to playing basketball, football, and running. Once his physical therapy treatments were complete, we compared his before and after videos and saw  an improvement in his body awareness, coordination and neuromuscular control which will allow him to be a safer athlete.

Upon completing his physical therapy treatments, Grady showed improvement in his strength, coordination, and endurance.

In Grady’s case, physical therapy was an excellent treatment choice to relieve his adolescent knee pain. After just a few weeks of physical therapy treatments he was back to playing the sports that he loves, running around, and enjoying all the perks of being a kid.

At some point in our lives, we all experience unexplained pain. Typically caused by a weakness or imbalance in the muscles, these types of issues can often be successfully treated with physical therapy. If you’re repeatedly feeling pain while running, exercising, or moving in general, consider giving physical therapy a try. We even offer free consultations where you can sit down and talk with a physical therapist, one-on-one, to see if physical therapy is the right choice for you.

 

To learn more about how physical therapists treat adolescent knee pain, click here.