Experiencing intense chronic pain in your shoulder? This is one symptom of a torn rotator cuff. In addition to being painful, a torn rotator cuff can also be debilitating. Your shoulder may feel weak and stiff. You might also hear grating sounds when moving your arm. For those experiencing the aftermath of this injury, getting treatment quickly is essential. Severe symptoms like pain and weakness caused by a rotator cuff tear can be key signs that you should seek physical therapy treatment. Physical therapy can alleviate pain, restore function and promote healing. Understanding some potential causes of a rotator cuff tear can help you avoid future injuries and know when physical therapy can help.
Understanding the causes of a torn rotator cuff
- Repetitive movements — Over time, repetitive motions can lead to wear and tear in the joints. These motions can include quick moves like throwing or lifting something overhead. Movements like these are often repeated in sports activities. Because of this, athletes can be vulnerable to rotator cuff tears. People who work in intense manual labor jobs can also be at risk. For example, a warehouse worker who spends much of the day lifting heavy objects can tear their rotator cuff through too much repetition. This cause also has to do with improper technique. Physical therapy can educate patients on proper body mechanics to help prevent future injuries like this.
- Trauma or injury — A sudden fall or impact can injure the rotator cuff. Many tears are caused by situations where the shoulder is subjected to a forceful rotating movement. This kind of incident can lead to immediate intense pain. Unlike some other causes, a high-impact injury can cause the rotator cuff to tear all at once.
- Tendon degeneration — Tendons are important bridges in the body. A tendon is typically situated between muscle and bone. As a connective tissue, each tendon is essential for keeping your body safe. As the body ages, tendons can naturally degenerate. Tendon degeneration is sometimes called tendinosis when it is caused by overuse. When the tendons around the rotator cuff degenerate, it is left more exposed and vulnerable. This can make the rotator cuff susceptible to tears even under minimal stress.
4 top physical therapy-based treatments for a torn rotator cuff
- Strengthening exercises — After a rotator cuff tear, your whole shoulder will need time to recover. Athletic patients are often concerned about muscle atrophy during the recovery process. Want to recover and maintain your strength after a rotator cuff tear? Physical therapy treatment plans can include targeted strengthening exercises. These exercises can stabilize your shoulder and the surrounding area. Keeping your shoulder strong can help with pain management and improve resistance to future impacts. By keeping your shoulder strong, you can help to prevent re-injury of the rotator cuff.
- Stretching exercises — Physical therapy for shoulder pain can come in many forms. Stretching exercises are one common strategy. By improving flexibility, these stretches can relieve tension in the shoulder. As you recover from a rotator cuff tear, this treatment strategy can also restore your range of motion. This means you can return to daily activities sooner. The flexibility gained through stretching can benefit you during recovery and help you stay safe after. Keeping the joints in your shoulder flexible can help prevent other shoulder conditions from arising in the future.
- Post-surgical rehab — A major rotator cuff tear may require surgery. Shoulder operations can be intense and sometimes require lengthy rehab afterward. If you have undergone surgery for your rotator cuff, post-surgical rehabilitation can be helpful. A physical therapist can guide you through this process to manage pain and minimize recovery time.
- Dry needling — Looking to manage the pain and tension in your shoulder? After a rotator cuff tear, dry needling treatments can be a great choice. Dry needling is a versatile practice designed to stimulate blood flow and decrease muscle tension. This treatment is popular for helping with current symptoms while promoting healing for the future.
Find relief for your torn rotator cuff with treatments from REPAIR SI
A torn rotator cuff does not have to keep you from leading an active and fulfilling life. Comprehensive treatments for your torn rotator cuff are available at REPAIR SI. Using a combination of PT strategies, you can find pain relief and improve your shoulder’s functionality. At REPAIR SI, our team can help you manage your symptoms and maintain a good trajectory for recovery.