What is rotator cuff syndrome?

What is rotator cuff syndrome?

The rotator cuff is comprised of four muscles and their tendons in the shoulder, connecting the upper arm muscle-knotsand shoulder blade. Those muscles are supraspinatus, which is responsible for abduction of the arm at the shoulder; infraspinatus and teres minor, which externally rotate the arm; and subscapularis, which internally rotates the bone in the upper arm, the humerus. Rotator cuff syndrome refers to any injury, pain, or loss of function related to the muscles and tendons of the rotator cuff group.

Symptoms of rotator cuff syndrome.

Rotator cuff syndrome is a broad term used to describe injuries and damage to the rotator cuff. There is a spectrum of injuries that can occur. Common injuries include partial tears in the muscles and tendons, which can result from acute injury or wear and tear over the long term. Many times repetitive motion that puts stress on the rotator cuff is the culprit  for this. Symptoms for rotator cuff tears include pain and weakness in the muscle group. It is also possible to sustain a tendonitis injury which occurs when repetitive motion, such as painting, throwing, or raising the arms above the head daily, causing a painful strain. Lifting the arms at the shoulder becomes painful with this condition. It is also possible to sustain a shoulder impingement, in which the muscles around the join get caught in the bony processes and are unable to move as needed. Pain and symptoms are similar to rotator cuff tendonitis, where there is tenderness and pain upon moving the arm at the shoulder.

Treatments for rotator cuff syndrome.

Short-term pain management for rotator cuff syndrome often comes in the form of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Advil and Motrin. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, NSAIDs may not be particularly effective. Furthermore, NSAIDs do not represent a long term solution for either pain relief or symptom management for rotator cuff syndrome. At best, these drugs can produce temporary relief by masking the pain caused by tears in the tendons and ligaments and the inflammation that arises from the accumulation of fibrous adhesions due to microtears in the soft tissue surrounding the rotator cuff muscle group. In order to effectively treat rotator cuff syndrome, it is important to address the underlying causes of it.

Rotator-cuff-tearBecause the rotator cuff is comprised of four different muscles, rotator cuff syndrome can describe one of several different problems. Pain may be the result of overuse or injury of one or more of the muscles in the rotator cuff; therefore, developing a treatment plan individualized to the particular cause of the pain is crucial. Rotator cuff syndrome is often used as a broad term and a physical evaluation from a medical specialist, such as a chiropractor, will result in the highest quality of care because the cause will be more individually identified, and more easily resolved.

Rehabilitative care and rest are the recommended course of action for effectively reducing the incidence of pain and restoring full function to the arms and shoulders. As with many other repetitive movement injuries, massage therapy can provide not only pain relief, but the restoration of range of movement. Massage therapy to the rotator cuff muscle group works to soften the inflamed tissues, allowing for improved circulation to the site of injury. Massage therapy and chiropractic care work hand-in-hand in this capacity; massage therapy softens the tissue, allowing the patient to regain some aspect of comfortable motion, and chiropractic care helps to retrain soft tissue to return to its appropriate origin, furthering the restoration of full range of motion. Further, chiropractic treatments can restore function to the rotator cuff by addressing the underlying condition and working to eliminate inflammation and restore function. Chiropractic adjustments of the shoulder and associated areas allow for fuller range of movement; these adjustments can be made even more accurate with Functional Movement Screening, a series of physical tests which relay weakness and asymmetries throughout the musculature. Soft tissue treatments such as ART and Graston work to reduce the incidence and symptoms of inflammation, sending fibrous adhesions that inhibit functional movement back into circulation. Kinesiotape can be advantageous as well by helping correct and maintain proper shoulder positioning throughout the day by stimulating proprioception, increasing your body’s positional awareness. Chiropractic physicians also provide detailed rehabilitative programs targeted to preserve and build muscle strength during the healing process.

To make an appointment to consult with one of our highly trained chiropractors or massage therapists, call the office at (415) 788-8700.


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