Phone0790 999093 AddressBeActive Clinic, 28 Castle Street, Hertford, England

The following is an overview of one common source of shoulder pain and a brief summary of what separates it from other conditions.

Rotator Cuff Tendonitis problems are common amongst all sectors of the population although they are more prevalent in those aged 55+, so what gives rise to these problems and what distinguishes them from other common shoulder injuries where these muscles may be more seriously affected by a sudden tear?

Firstly, the rotator cuff comprises a group of 4 muscles which individually initiate specific rotational movements of the shoulder or gleno-humeral joint allowing your upper arm to twist and turn in many every-day and sporting actions. Collectively they literally form a cuff around the head of the humerus and together they stabilise the humeral head during all shoulder movements. This is a vital role because this articulation within the shoulder complex possesses minimal structural integrity with a very shallow skeletal socket allowing high degrees of mobility and wide ranges of movements.

For the gleno-humeral joint to allow such extensive mobility, by necessity the biomechanical support is limited, and the rotator cuff muscles must consistently function well to maintain optimal and efficient movement of the shoulder during all upper limb activities. When they don’t, they become susceptible to the effects of overuse with irritation and inflammation as the most common consequences suffered. This does not mean you must be a prolific athlete to suffer this condition. Remember, overuse is relative to each individual and therefore may be provoked by minimal activity following a period of ‘underuse’. Discomfort felt will often start slowly as a localised ache or ‘twinge’, usually provoked by over-arm activities and as the tendonitis worsens, they will increase in duration and level, sometimes causing sharper pains and weakness during more strenuous arm actions. If left untreated, symptoms can progress to ‘creaking’ in the joint, with possible cartilage degeneration later.

Assessment of the shoulder will include identifying which muscles are affected and how, before commencing treatment. A thorough examination will also eliminate potential neck problems which may refer pain to the shoulder. A tear of any the four muscles will usually result in higher pain levels and less ability to perform specific shoulder actions for which a different course of treatment will be advised.
Although reducing the activities that aggravate the condition is essential, it is equally important that the sufferer maintains flexibility and restores strength during a treatment programme. Resting too much will inevitably weaken the rotator cuff muscles and leave the shoulder complex poorly conditioned for any return to activity or sport. A graded and controlled progression of movement, strength and flexibility gains must form the basis of a treatment and rehabilitation plan.

For those advancing in age, the message is both clear and crucial to the long-term health and function of the shoulder – keep moving! And engage in regular overarm actions to maintain mobility and strength; don’t avoid them.

Tim Paine

Director at BeActive Clinic

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