A shoulder injury is nothing to shrug about. The good new is that there are things you can do to better protect your shoulders and keep them functioning as they should.
The role of the rotator cuff
The rotator cuff plays a large role in how your shoulders work. It is a group of tendons and muscles in the shoulder, linking the upper arm to the shoulder blade. The rotator cuff tendons increase the shoulder’s stability and the muscles allow the shoulder to rotate.
Some jobs, such as construction, and other factors, such as simply getting older, increase the risk of rotator cuff injury. Tears to the rotator cuff are more common in people over 40 and in work that requires repetitive overhead motion such as lifting. Even athletes who use repetitive motions such as tennis players, swimmers or baseball pitchers are at risk for shoulder injury.
When your rotator cuff is injured, it can be painful and limit your range of motion. It may feel like an ache in your shoulder or you may find it hard to sleep if you lie on your shoulder. Some tasks that you used to do with ease, such as lifting your arm to brush your hair or reaching behind your back, are harder to do. You also may feel weakness in your arm. A rotator cuff can be damaged as a result of a significant tear or degenerate over time due to progressive wear and tear.
What to do
If your pain is short-lived then get it evaluated by your family doctor. See your doctor right away if you have a sudden loss of motion following an injury because you could have a significant rotator cuff tear. If your pain lasts more than a few weeks, or if you’ve received a diagnosis from a doctor that you have a rotator cuff tear, your next step will be to be evaluated by a shoulder specialist because some surgical procedures are time sensitive.
For a minor injury
-Simply resting your shoulder may be all that is needed to resolve a minor shoulder injury.
-Applying ice and heat is another tactic for treating your shoulder pain. Applying a cold pack to your shoulder for 15 to 20 minutes every three to four hours can reduce inflammation and pain. When the pain and inflammation have gotten better, you can use hot packs or a heating pad to relax tense or sore muscles.
-Using over-the-counter pain relievers such as Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) or Naproxen Sodium (Aleve) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) can help with the pain.
If your job involves lifting overhead or other repetitive motions that could lead to shoulder injury then it’s a good idea to make exercising your shoulders a regular part of your routine.
For some simple exercises to strengthen your shoulders, click here.