Rotor Cuff Injuries and Massage

Photo via flickr. Licensed under creative commons.

Photo via flickr. Licensed under creative commons.

While a season of nearly unlimited sport activities may await you, there is something else that may be lurking in the background, ready to strike – rotor cuff injuries. Your shoulder is one of the largest joints in your body and provides an incredibly wide range of motion. And, therein lies the problem; it is precisely the ability of the shoulder to move in all directions that leads to injuries of the rotor cuff.

You may want to picture the shoulder joint as a large grapefruit (the ball) balanced on an egg cup (the socket). The thing that holds the shoulder ball on the socket is the rotor cuff, which is a surrounding of muscles and tendons. Tendons are what connect muscles to bone. Muscles can be torn (strained) or the tendons can be torn or even ruptured, resulting in pain and loss of use of the shoulder temporarily.

How Rotor Cuff Injuries Occur

It’s not surprising to learn that the more you use your shoulders, the more likely are the chances for rotor cuff injuries, especially in the favored arm. Repetitive and expansive motions, including where the arms are lifted above the head, also contribute to the damage the rotor cuff may accumulate, and very often small injuries are ignored and eventually develop into large ones that must be attended to. There are some sports that are more likely to cause injuries to the rotor cuff than are others:

  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Baseball
  • Surfing

Those of you who enjoy golf will be happy to learn that rotor cuff injury is relatively rare among golfers; the arms are seldom raised far above the head.

Identifying Rotor Cuff Problems

To a certain extent, it’s sometimes difficult to tell what is the source of the pain that you are experiencing in your shoulder; but in order to sort rotor cuff injury from osteoarthritis or bursitis, there are some symptoms that damage to the rotor cuff will demonstrate:

  • You will feel a stabbing pain when you are lifting something or reaching.
  • Sleeping on the shoulder produces pain.
  • The shoulder simply does not have the range of motion it once did.
  • There is a loss of strength in the shoulder and arm.
  • Touching the front of the shoulder produces pain.
  • Swelling occurs.

Preventing and Treating Rotor Cuff Sport Injuries

One of the best ways to prevent rotor cuff injuries in the first place is to adequately warm up before starting to play your favored game, especially after a winter of relative inactivity. Warm up exercises will get more blood flowing to the shoulders, reducing the chances of rotator cuff injury.

Weak muscles are much more susceptible to damage than are strong ones, so don’t expect to start off your sport at the maximum level, work up to it gradually. It can also help to alternate activities so that you might play tennis one day, then bicycle the next. Avoid sleeping on a shoulder that is painful.

You should be aware that if the tendon ruptures entirely from the shoulder joint, the only answer will be surgery – the contraction of the muscle after the break will make it impossible for healing to occur without surgical intervention.

Shoulder pain should never be taken lightly. Rest should be your first response; you will not be able to work through this by continuing the activity. In addition to rest, you might consider using massage not only to help heal a damaged shoulder, but also to help prevent damage from recurring or even preventing it in the first place.

Your shoulder can be affected not only by the muscles immediately attached to it, but by muscles in the back and legs. A whole body massage can help to keep all of these muscles toned, making it less likely that a rotor cuff injury will occur at all.