Diagnosing a Rotator Cuff Injury
Your orthopedic surgeon or physician will be able to assess, test and diagnose your rotator cuff injury through a variety of processes.
History of the Injury
To begin with, they will gather a medical history about you and your current condition and symptoms. They will inquire about the intensity of your present pain, the duration of your symptoms and the limitations you are experiencing. Details about what instigated the problem, when it started, and whether or not you have ever had treatments for this or a similar condition in the past, are very helpful in assessing your injury.
A physical examination will be performed to determine if you have any signs of a rotator cuff or other shoulder injury. Your doctor will visually assess and palpate (feel) the bones and soft tissue in both your shoulders to evaluate symmetry and recognize differences. This will identify any abnormalities, such as mild or severe inflammation, bone deformity, atrophied muscles, redness and/or warmth on the skin.
Range of Motion Tests
You will generally be asked to complete a series of movements to measure your active (performed by you) and passive (performed by your examiner) range of motion. These will test any possible shoulder impingements, as well as your shoulder strength, joint stability, and location of tenderness.
If you are experiencing rotator cuff tendonitis, you will generally feel pain and weakness when the arm is lifted in front of the body or overhead. Often all that will be required to determine your condition is a discussion of your medical history, as well as a visual and physical examination of your shoulder. You may be asked to perform a few movement tests to identify which areas of the Rotator Cuff are damaged, such as the following:
To test strength in your supraspinatus tendon and muscle, hold your arms out in front of you at a 30 degree angle with your elbows locked and your thumbs pointing down. Gentle pressure will be applied to the top of your arms as you try to move your arms up and away from your body.
To test if you have a shoulder impingement you may be asked to raise your arm overhead, lock your elbow, and rotate your arm inward so your thumb is pointing down; pain with movement is a key indicator.
A rotator cuff tear will be evident after determining your limited range of motion and the weakness in your muscles; with a tear you will often not be able to complete the movement tests as a result of the pain. An X-ray will generally be taken to help explain other possible sources of the shoulder pain. Occasionally an MRI will be recommended which will identify the degree of specific tissue tears, swelling, and fluid in the rotator cuff.
If you have experienced shoulder instability pay special attention to your symptoms. A shoulder subluxation can usually be diagnosed with a physical exam and some movement tests which identify pain or weakness. A dislocation will probably require an x-ray and/or a MRI to assess the overall damage.
Rotator Cuff Diagnostic Tests
A medical professional will sometimes recommend diagnostic testing to obtain more detailed information about your shoulder condition. There are a variety of different tests available to help them analyze the situation; however these will be dependent on your injury.
X-rays provide an image of the overall structure of the shoulder, and are helpful in identifying abnormal bone shapes and/or spurs, arthritis, or calcific tendonitis.
MRIs will show soft tissue and provide more detailed information to evaluate soft tissue (muscle, tendons, ligaments, connective tissue) injuries such as fluid in the shoulder, bursitis, tendoniti, and/or tears.
CT or CAT Scan
This will be used to provide a more thorough assessment of the bones and tissues in your rotator cuff and shoulder.
Further diagnostic tests such as an arthrogram, ultrasound, electromyogram, or arthroscopic surgery can be used to determine the degree and location of your injury if required.
Other areas near the source of discomfort, such as your neck, may be examined to ensure your pain is not coming from a "pinched nerve" in the cervical spine, or to rule out osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.
Rotator Cuff Treatments
Your initial treatment should involve decreasing any swelling, relieving any pain and stress on the rotator cuff, correcting any biomechanical dysfunction, and then restoring strength and mobility to your injured shoulder. It's also very important to follow any instructions you receive from your physician.
Allowing your shoulder to rest is recommended following injury, however, some careful shoulder movement is required to prevent the joint from freezing and losing range of motion. See your doctor or physical therapist for stretches that will not cause further injury to your rotator cuff. Avoid activities that may have caused the injury or irritation and begin cold compression treatments as soon as possible.
The trick to healing your rotator cuff injury and getting your shoulder back in the best possible condition you can is getting it to heal quickly so there is minimal scar tissue. Even with optimum healing, there is always less elasticity in previously injured rotator cuff tendons, muscles and ligaments. However, if you heal your tissue properly, your chance of re-injury or chronic shoulder conditions later on is much lower than average.
There are healing tools that can help treat your rotator cuff tendon, bursa, or other soft tissue and speed up the healing process so you can get back to a life without pain and risk of further injury. Blood Flow Stimulation Therapy™ (BFST®) will promote blood flow to heal your tendons faster and more completely than any other methods available.
Although steroid injections may provide temporary relief from the pain of rotator cuff tendinitis, bursitis, and other injury they should
generally be avoided as they weaken the tendon and may lead to a rupture. If you do opt for an injection, doctors usually recommend that you do not participate in strenuous activities for several weeks to reduce the risk of a rupture.
Freezie Wrap® ColdCure Technology®
To decrease inflammation and relieve pain for a chronic or diagnosed rotator cuff injury doctor's recommend cold compression therapy. For an acute trauma, cold compression therapy within the first 48 - 72 hours and after any strain or re-injury is important to limit the amount of damage done to your tissue. For chronic pain, cold compression therapy will relieve pain and swelling as needed and will reduce, or even eliminate, the need for NSAIDs.
The Shoulder Freezie Wrap® is the cold compression tool you need treat your supraspinatus tendon, subacromial bursa, and other shoulder tissue in an effective and convenient way.
Cold Compression Therapy works by interrupting and slowing nerve and cell function in the injured area and reducing swelling that can block blood vessels. This is important because once blood vessels are blocked or damaged, they can no longer carry oxygenated blood through your tendon and tissue cells begin to break-down. Without cold compression therapy cellular break-down and tissue damage continues as the cells do not get the oxygen they need to survive. By limiting the amount of damage done to your tissue, you also limit the amount of healing that needs to occur. This is a very important step to healyour injured tendon, bursa, muscle, labrum, or ligaments faster and with less pain!
The deep cooling effect provided by the Shoulder Freezie Wrap® slows cell metabolism thereby reducing cellular break-down and tissue damage. Furthermore, because the cold wraps gently numb the nerves, the wraps also reduce pain! The Shoulder Freezie Wrap® uses a supercharged cooling gel pack, that chills in the fridge, not in the freezer like ice or other freezer packs, giving you deep cold therapy without the risk of 'cold burns' or cryoburn. The medical-grade wrap keeps the cold directly off your skin preventing cryoburn while delivering cold right where you need it.
Inferno Wrap® Blood Flow Stimulation Therapy™
After severe inflammation and swelling is reduced you can begin to treat your rotator cuff tendon, bursa, labrum and other soft tissue with Blood Flow Stimulation Therapy™ (BFST®). BFST® increases the amount of blood that flows naturally to your shoulder to nourish your tendons, ligaments and muscles to speed healing.
The rotator cuff naturally receives a limited blood supply and when you stop moving your shoulder because it hurts the blood flow is reduced even further, limiting your body's natural ability to heal itself.
By treating your rotator cuff with BFST® you can increase your body's blood supply to the shoulder and increase your body's natural healing power.
An Inferno Wrap® is the tool you need to treat your sore shoulder because it speeds healing and relaxes the surrounding muscles. With BFST®, tissues are safely and gently stimulated. Your body responds with a rapid increase in blood flow to the area, increasing the supply of oxygen and nutrients to injured cells to promote healing. Our Shoulder Inferno Wrap® provides effective, non-invasive, non-addictive pain relief and healing with no side effects.
In addition, the improved blood flow whisks away dead cells and toxins that have built up from the injury. When you stop moving your arm and shoulder due to shoulder pain, your muscles and other tissue can become weaker and dead cells and toxins in the area can cause further tissue deterioration - this can lead to atrophy. By clearing the area of toxins and increasing the amount of oxygen and nutrients to your muscle and other tissue, the risk of atrophy (muscle weakness and/or deterioration) is greatly reduced. Keeping your upper arm, shoulder and rotator cuff tissue as healthy as possible throughout the healing process will allow you to improve shoulder strength again once your pain has gone and your injury has healed.
Click here to learn more about how BFST® and Inferno Wraps® work.
With these easy-to-use, home therapies, cold compression and BFST®, you will notice significantly reduced pain and an incredible improvement in your rotator cuff range of motion.
During your recovery, you may have to modify and/or eliminate any activities that cause pain or discomfort in your rotator cuff area until your pain and inflammation settle, and you gain more mobility and strength in your shoulder. The more diligent you are with your treatment and rehabilitation, the faster you will see successful results!
Remember: We recommend that you consult your doctor and/or physiotherapist before using any of our outstanding products, to make sure they're right for you and your condition.
Physical therapy is a beneficial way to help decrease pain in the soft tissues, restore atrophied muscles and improve shoulder strength and mobility. The type of physical therapy and the duration will be dependent on your injury.
Once your pain starts to diminish, a physiotherapist can set up an individualized rotator cuff strengthening and stretching exercise program for you to perform at home or in the gym. This will be based on your needs and abilities, and will help you return to performing your normal routines.
Individuals will often lift weights on their own, to try and build up their shoulder strength. However, in doing so, they can do more damage to their shoulder. It is extremely important to strengthen your muscles properly, as they may have weakened during the period of non-use. A trained therapist will help to ensure your rehabilitation process is effective. For fast and effective results, use BFST® in conjunction with physical therapy and an exercise program.
NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) can be used if required to help manage your pain and inflammation. However, these aren't recommended for long term use, as they can cause gastrointestinal difficulties. Some health professionals have also recommended natural supplements such as glucosamine, MSM or hyaluronic acid to help strengthen the injured tissue.
The use of a Shoulder Freezie Wrap® can greatly reduce, if not eliminate, the need for NSAIDs. Cold compression therapy is a natural, less harmful way to reduce your pain and inflammation.
Once the initial swelling has decreased, you can provide pain relief and improve your arm function by using an Inferno Wrap® to increase the blood flow to the area. Gentle massage around the injured area or small shoulder movements (if not painful) will also help increase blood flow, oxygen and nutrients and will prevent stiffness. To increase your comfort and prevent further damage, you may want to stabilize your arm by using a shoulder sling or brace to avoid unpredictable movements.
Please be aware that this information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider before starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.