Your shoulders are vital to many different activities; from lifting items to enjoying a swim, your shoulder joint is important. However, because it’s used often, your shoulder is prone to injury — especially to your rotator cuff. This injury can put you out of work and your activities for months, so it’s important to understand how to prevent a rotator cuff tear.
At Orthopaedic Specialists, located in Nashville, Tennessee, our team helps you keep all of your joints healthy, including your shoulders. Dr. Brandon Downs is our orthopaedic specialist, who has years of experience in treating orthopaedic injuries — and teaching the skills and exercises to prevent them.
What is your rotator cuff?
Your shoulder joint is vital to many of the movements and tasks that you do every day. It’s considered a ball-and-socket joint; the ball is the head of your humerus and the socket is the glenoid of the scapula. This area is known as the glenohumeral joint.
Your shoulder joint is shallow and needs to be held in place by other tissues such as tendons, ligaments, and muscles. Your rotator cuff is one of the main components that helps to keep your humeral head in place. It also allows you to lift your arm and rotate it.
The rotator cuff is made up of four muscles that meet as tendons around the glenohumeral joint. These four muscles include the:
- Teres minor
These four muscles originate at your shoulder blade and are attached to your humerus by the tendons. This not only helps to keep your joint stable but also allows you to rotate and move your shoulder without it popping out of the joint.
However, your rotator cuff is prone to injury and wear and tear, which can lead to a breakdown of the muscles and tendons causing pain and difficulty moving the joint.
Signs of a rotator cuff tear
Rotator cuff tears can happen through acute injury or degeneration. They can also be a full-thickness tear, meaning the whole cuff is torn, or a partial thickness tear. Partial thickness means the tear doesn’t extend through the tendon completely.
Whether you tear your rotator cuff fully or only suffer a partial tear, there are several symptoms that you’ll experience. Some of the symptoms that accompany a rotator cuff tear include:
- Pain during rest
- Pain while laying on the affected shoulder
- Trouble rotating or lifting your arm
- Weakness in the affected shoulder
- Cracking sensation with movement
If your rotator cuff is torn during an injury, you may experience sudden, intense pain in the affected shoulder. Immediate weakness may also occur. However, with degenerative tears, the pain and mobility issues occur at a much slower pace.
How to effectively prevent rotator cuff tears
Although rotator cuff tears can be debilitating, there are ways to effectively prevent this type of injury from happening. Like any other part of your body, taking care of your shoulders is the best way to keep them from getting hurt.
This is especially true if you’re an athlete or your job requires you to do repetitive lifting over your head. Dr. Downs gives the following tips to help you avoid rotator cuff injuries:
Watch your posture
Poor posture doesn’t only affect your neck and back — it also puts unnecessary pressure on your rotator cuff. Slouching or pushing your neck forward makes those muscles work harder, which sometimes results in degeneration of the rotator cuff muscles and tendons.
Warm-up your muscles
Whether you’re an avid swimmer, golfer, or tennis player, it’s important that you stretch and warm-up your muscles before you play. These sports do a number on your shoulders, and proper stretching beforehand helps prevent injury to your shoulders.
Regularly strengthen your shoulders
You don’t have to be an avid weightlifter to keep your shoulders strong and healthy. Small exercises several times a day can help to strengthen and stretch your shoulder muscles. This helps prevent injury by getting the muscles warm and loose.
Don’t ignore pain
If you do end up with shoulder pain, it’s important that you don’t disregard it. Sometimes pain isn’t anything to worry about but if it continues without getting better, you should see Dr. Downs as soon as possible.
If you’re having shoulder pain and are worried about a rotator cuff tear, don’t hesitate to call our office in Nashville, Tennessee at 615-590-8000. You can also book an appointment on our website using our convenient scheduling tool.