Shoulder injuries are common injuries that occur with the types of activities that involve repetitive & sometimes excessive overhead motion e.g. throwing, swimming, bowling, racket sports, lifting weights. They can also occur due to everyday activities such as gardening, cleaning, painting, as well as due to degeneration (wear & tear) from overuse or simply from ageing.
Today we are going to look at a very important structure that is part of the shoulder joint called the rotator cuff.
The rotator cuff is one of the main reasons that I became a health professional. In 2010 I injured my shoulder while weight training in the gym through a lack of knowledge & incorrect techniques. Back then, the group of muscles called the rotator cuff had never been mentioned, I had never heard anyone talking about them nor had I seen anyone doing exercises for them. Today I realise the importance of the rotator cuff & the effect that they have on the arm & shoulder which I thought I would share with you.
So you ask “What is the rotator cuff, what does it do & why is it so important?”
The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles & tendons that are situated in the shoulder. They allow us to lift & move our arm away from our body & most importantly, they provide the stability of the shoulder by keeping the ball of the upper arm (humerus) in the shallow socket of the shoulder blade (scapula).
The four muscles that make up the rotator cuff include:
Supraspinatus: helps lift the arm, sits along the top edge of the scapula, most commonly injured
Infraspinatus: allows us to rotate & extend the shoulder externally/outwardly, sits flat on the outer surface of the scapula
Teres minor: smallest of the rotator cuff muscles, assists infraspinatus with external rotation, sits on the outer edge of the scapula
Subscapularis: allows us to rotate our arm inwards, holds our arm out straight & also lowers the arm, sits on the internal surface of the scapula, between the scapula & the ribs.
What does the rotator cuff do?
During movement of the arm, the rotator cuff muscles contract & this controls the motion of the head of the humerus by preventing excessive sliding of the humerus in the shoulder joint & this is what provides us with full movement of the arm (full range of motion).
They also provide the stability for the shoulder joint. They do this by basically sucking the humerus into the shallow socket of the shoulder (as can be seen in the following diagram)
If there is an issue with the rotator cuff muscles then the superficial muscles such as trapezius, deltoids, biceps & triceps will still attempt to pull the humerus into the socket but this is not hat those muscles are designed for & this can then lead to issues developing. Another issue that can arise from ineffective or damaged rotator cuff muscles is that if the humerus is allowed to slide upwards or forwards it can press the underlying structures against the bony structures within & around the shoulder which may also lead to pain or instability.
Some common symptoms that you may experience include:
Pain at rest & at night, particularly if lying on affected side
Pain when lifting & lowering arm
Weakness when lifting or rotating arm
Functional difficulties such as difficulty lifting, pushing, overhead movements & placing hand behind your back
What can myotherapy do?
We can check to see whether there is tenderness in particular areas or if there are any deformities visible
Move your arm through certain positions/directions to assess & measure range of motion
Test arm, strength
Examine neck & surrounding structures
Assess & release any trigger points/knots/tender spots in associated & surrounding areas to help relieve pain & dysfunction
Provide stretching &/or strengthening exercise to help improve range of motion & flexibility
Eric completed his diploma of remedial massage in 2015 before going on to complete his advanced diploma of Myotherapy in 2018 & is currently undertaking further study doing osteopathy.
Eric has a keen interest in treating shoulder issues but also enjoys treating all aspects in order to help reduce pain, help people recover from injury & to help improve the quality of life for his clients.
Eric is available On Monday 3pm -6pm, Fridays 11am-3pm and alternating Saturdays