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Rotator Cuff Exercise - The Key to Pain Free Shoulders

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If you have ever felt a dull ache or sharp pain in your upper arm or shoulder, have trouble reaching behind you or are unable to get comfortable at night because of shoulder pain, then you have probably damaged your rotator cuff.

Rotator cuff injuries are one of the most common injuries. Over eight million Americans will visit their doctor with shoulder problems this year alone and the vast majority will be injuries such as tendonitis, bursitis and cuff tears. The rotator cuff is made up of four relatively small muscles that all run from the shoulder blade (scapula) to the head of the Upper arm bone (humerus). Their job is to pull the arm into the socket of the joint stabilizing the shoulder as we move. They also help to move the shoulder whenever we rotate the arm.

The most common injury is to the supraspinatus tendon which helps when we raise our arm and is at its most stressed when we lift our arms above shoulder height. With a supraspinatus tear you will experience an ongoing pain in your upper arm with sharp pain in your shoulder when you raise your arm. The arm will become weak and you will experience difficulty lifting it as well as night time pain.

It may be that rather than a rotator cuff tear you have acute tendonitis which can present with very similar symptoms. The best way to check this is with an MRI scan.

You are more likely to need surgery if you have torn your rotator cuff. Tendonitis on the other hand will nearly always respond well to rest, treatment with ice packs and anti-inflammatory drugs followed by rotator cuff exercises aimed at rehabilitating and strengthening the rotator cuff.

Tears are comparatively rare in younger people. They tend to come along with age, as our muscles weaken although younger people who play repetitive overhead sports can be at risk. Swimmers, baseball players and gymnasts often suffer from rotator cuff tears.

Research has shown that a lot of people can function perfectly well with a rotator cuff tear. A lot will depend on the level of pain that you experience and the level of activity or type of activity that you intend to carry out. The main reason for surgery is to help with pain rather than to restore movement. Recovery from surgery can take up to eighteen months depending on the level of injury. Tendonitis on the other hand can usually be resolved within four to six weeks.

Which is why it is important to treat shoulder injuries sooner rather than later to avoid them getting worse.. Tendonitis that is ignored can develop into a tear that will require a much longer rehabilitation time.

The important thing, as we get older, is to stretch and condition our shoulders before we do any serious exercise with them. A few shoulder stretches done before playing baseball with the kids can save you from weeks of pain and inconvenience. And if you are over forty and still have healthy shoulders a few rotator cuff exercises will go a long way towards avoiding potential problems.

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