Symptoms of Rotator Cuff Injuries
Everyone experiences symptoms of an injury different than another person might; therefore symptoms are subjective and based on an individual basis. If you have early stage rotator cuff inflammation or tendonitis you may only experience pain and other symptoms with strenuous activity. However, if you have a rotator cuff tear you may experience more weakness and targeted pain, which interferes with your ability to sleep at night and greatly affects your mobility. If you allow your pain to persist, you will eventually experience pain at rest or with no activity at all.
Pain in your rotator cuff may happen gradually and is normally associated with movement from repetitive activities, overstraining, or from degeneration of the tendon. It can also occur immediately following a trauma, such as a fall onto your arm or a lifting injury.
It is most aggravated and intensifies when doing overhead or forward reaching activities (throwing motions or reaching for objects).
An injury to the supraspinatus tendon will often result in rotator cuff pain on top of and along the outside of your shoulder. It can radiate down the outside of your upper arm reaching down to the thumb side of your forearm.
Subscapularis pain occurs at the back (posterior) shoulder, around the scapula area and can extend up to the top of the shoulder. Pain may also extend down the back (tricep area) of the arm.
If the infraspinatus tendon is injured, pain is felt at the front of the shoulder and deep within the shoulder joint. Depending on the severity, pain may reach down the outer part of the arm and into the hand.
Teres minor tendon pain develops in the back of the upper arm near the shoulder joint in a very localized area. Pain may extend up your arm or you may experience tingling all the way down to your fingers.
People with rotator cuff injuries generally find the pain becomes worse at night, especially when lying on the affected shoulder. This pain can range from mild, to moderate, to sharp, although it can be difficult to pinpoint.
Generally the amount of pain you experience will depend on the extent of your injury but in any situation you will probably find some relief if you use a pillow to support your arm while you sleep.
Weakness in your rotator cuff makes it difficult for you to raise your arm above your head, or extend your arm in front or to the side of you. You will often find it difficult to complete routine tasks such as reaching behind your back, putting your shirt on, or combing your hair. This is frequently noticed with complete rotator cuff tears.
The loss of mobility and/or decreased range of movement in your shoulder area can indicate a rotator cuff injury. This is often accompanied by stiffness in the joint area, which is sometimes referred to as "frozen shoulder".
Another key symptom of a rotator cuff injury is Crepitus (the clicking, grating, crackling or popping sounds heard and experienced in your shoulder joint when you move your upper arm around). This tends to result from two rough surfaces coming in contact and grinding against one another, especially where cartilage has worn away. These noises tend to occur when you are overexerting yourself, such as pushing a heavy object.
Swelling and Inflammation
Recurring or constant inflammation and swelling around the Rotator Cuff or near a bone spur on your shoulder blade will also indicate an injury. Often this will be a result of tissue catching on the bone or being pinched between the bones.
Rotator Cuff Tendinitis and Bursitis Symptoms
If you have Rotator Cuff Tendinitis and Bursitis you will generally experience some of the above symptoms as well as red, sore, and swollen tendons or bursa. There is generally a gradual onset of pain, which flares up when you move your shoulder in any direction, especially overhead or out to the side.
Your ache will often originate from deep inside your shoulder and you will feel tenderness in a general area; this pain will often be worse at night.
A mild popping or crackling in your shoulder joint often indicates rotator cuff bursitis. As mentioned previously, if left untreated this can lead to a chronic tear. Rotator Cuff tendonitis and bursitis are very common in women 35 - 50 years of age.
Rotator Cuff Instability Symptoms
If you have Rotator Cuff Instability you may feel your arm slipping in and out of your shoulder socket, and/or you may experience a "dead arm" feeling when you raise your arm over your head or move it away from your body. This Rotator Cuff instability may cause you to experience pain and unsteadiness. If you have a dislocation, your arm bone will slip or be forced out of the socket, resulting in immediate inflammation, loss of mobility, and a possible tear. This is very painful.
Rotator Cuff Strain and Tear Symptoms
If you have a chronic or acute Rotator Cuff Strain or Tear you will experience most of the above symptoms. You will notice that your pain will be targeted in specific areas, especially when you lift your arm overhead or away from your body. You will also not be able to sleep on your injured shoulder. A strong crackling or popping sensation in your shoulder often indicates a tear.
If the tear occurs with a traumatic injury you may experience a sharp and sudden pain, a snapping sensation and an immediate weakness in your arm. This is known as an Acute Rotator Cuff tear. You will experience specific tenderness over the point of the tear and your range of motion will decrease immediately, as a result of muscle spasm, bleeding, or pain. You will also not be able to raise your arm out to your side without assistance. This sharp pain will generally last for a few days; however the other symptoms may carry on indefinitely. Rotator Cuff strains or tears occur most often in athletes and people over 50 years of age.
A Chronic Rotator Cuff tear is usually found on your dominant side and is worse at night, which will interrupt your sleep. You will notice that your shoulder muscles will weaken and atrophy (decrease in muscle mass), and the stiffness and pain in your shoulder will get worse over time. Your range of motion will also decrease until you are unable to lift your arm out to the side or over your head without assistance. This condition is very common in women, and generally affects people over the age of 40 years.
Should You Seek Medical Attention?
This is up to your discretion; however any continued discomfort in your shoulder should be investigated, as it can lead to long term damage. If you experience any of the symptoms below, it is recommended that you seek professional medical attention:
- You are unable to work due to the pain or limited range of motion
- You are unable to move your shoulder or arm at all
- You are unable to reach to the side or overhead after 2-3 days
- Your pain and/or inflammation lasts for more than 2-3 days
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.