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Rotator Cuff Injury

I want you to imagine your shoulder as a golf ball sitting on a tee.

Imagine your shoulder joint as a golf ball sitting on a tee.

How does the ball not fall off the tee when you raise your shoulder? Well, your rotator cuff attaches and wraps around the "golf ball" or head of the humerus to keep the shoulder in place. These muscles are amazing, and know just how much support your shoulder needs. They also adjust their pull accordingly to whatever stress is placed on your shoulder.

What is the rotator cuff?

Front view of the rotator cuff

Your rotator cuff is a muscular 'cap' that surrounds the arm bone.  It is made out of four muscles that lay on the back, top, and front of your shoulder blade.  Each is responsible for slightly different directions of pull on the shoulder.  Together they coordinate to keep your shoulder stable with dynamic lifts, bench press, military press, etc.  When the rotator cuff is weak or not used to a new movement, it can become irritated or even tear at the tendon! 





How do rotator cuff tears happen?

Rotator cuff tears usually happen when the shoulder is loaded quickly, and without warning. A couple examples of these could be:

  • lifting something that is heavier than it looks.IMG_2612
  • trying to catch your fall with an outstretched arm.
  • bracing yourself in a car accident. 

How would I know if I tore my rotator cuff?

The main symptoms you would feel depending on the severity of the tear would be:

  • increased pain with overhead activities.
  • inability or difficulty lifting light items.
  • increased shoulder pain at night.
  • trouble putting your wallet in your back pocket.
  • difficulty washing your hair.

It should be noted that these symptoms are generalized and can also occur with other shoulder issues.  That is why it is important to have an evaluation performed by a trained medical professional. 

Can physical therapy help with rotator cuff tears?

A Physical Therapist is a medical professional who can help if this issue arises. Our in-depth knowledge of function and anatomy of the shoulder can give you more clarity on the severity of injury. We determine if you would benefit from rehab, or seeing an orthopedic doctor. Luckily, most partial tears and even full rotator cuff tears can recover from pain and limitation with physical therapy!

Our physical therapists are board certified in orthopedics and can help you heal from a torn rotator cuff.  Reach out to be seen for physical therapy in Columbia, MD!