Rotator Cuff Exercise Saved Me From Corrective Shoulder Surgery. Should You Be Doing Them?
Earlier this year I tore one of the muscles in my rotator cuff. Rotator cuff tears come in a number of different shapes and sizes and can be caused by a variety of different things so I was fairly fortunate in that mine was only a partial tear not, a full thickness tear.
Earlier this year I tore one of the muscles in my rotator cuff. Rotator cuff tears come in a number of different shapes and sizes and can be triggered by a number of different events so I was fairly lucky in that my injury was only a partial tear not, a full thickness tear.
I had a piece of furnitire awkwardly and put far too much strain on my shoulder. I felt a sharp pain at the top of my shoulder and fortunately had the common sense to put it down. I gave my shoulder a rub and carried on but the next time I lifted it was much more carefully. The pain had stopped and everything seemed fine, until the day after.
The next morning my shoulder was agony. Trying to lift my arm straight up in front of me, reaching out for anything or even getting dressed all caused me pain. I couldn't even tuck in my shirt without feeling a sharp pain at the top of my shoulder. Over the next three or four days my shoulder gradually became stiff up and the same movements that had hurt became increasingly painful. Not only did it hurt in the day but I was having trouble sleeping. If I lay on my bad shoulder I was kept awake by the pain. If I lay on my good shoulder, I had lie my arm carefully along my body to stop it dropping in front of or behind me as both those positions were painful Life was getting very difficult..
I resorted to sleeping on my back which really annoyed my wife as I immediately started to snore like a trooper.
In the end, I was diagnosed as having a rotator cuff tear. I had managed to tear my Supraspinatus tendon which runs under my collar bone, through a channel of bone before attaching to the head of teh humerus (upper arm bone). Because it was torn it had become inflamed. Because it was inflamed it was getting snagged on the bone every time that I used that particular muscle resulting in the muscle gradually fraying. Surgery was recommended. The aim was to shave away a piece of bone to give the damaged tendon more room to move so that it could heal. As I was in the UK the date was booked for three months away and I started a painful wait.
I began looking into shoulder injuries and their various therapies and found out that most rotator cuff tears are treated without resorting to surgery. Allow the muscle to heal with rest whilst treating the pain and inflammation with anti-inflammatory drugs and ice packs and then, once the pain has lessened start simple low weight rotator cuff exercise to build up and strengthen the muscles.
The most important element of this is the rest. If I had continued using my shoulder normally, I would have been damaging it further every time that I used that muscle. If I had managed to ignore the pain or even managed to work through the pain I could have eventually snapped the tendon completely. That would have definitely needed surgery!
In the end,by resting my arm amd avoiding any painful movement, by carefully treating the inflammation I gradually improved until I could do very simple easy exercises without any pain. As the exercises strengthened my muscles I regained the strength and movement in my shoulder and now ten weeks on I have full pain free movement again.
I'm lucky in that I have an office job. Just by changing my desk layout I could avoid using the injured tendon. If you have a more physical job you may have to think a bit more about how to avoid using the injured shoulder, but it is vital that you do so as continuing to use it will make it worse and all the therapy in the world wont help if you manage to tear it completely. Rotator cuff exercise features in nearly all shoulder injury therapy courses simply because the strength of the rotator cuff is fundamental to the health of your shoulders. Even if you have healthy shoulders it is worth spending a few minutes a day keeping these four muscles in good shape.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nick Bryant is an older dad to a young family who suffered a shoulder injury which he was told would require corrective surgery. After reading up on the condition he managed a full recovery with just rest and rotator cuff exercise
Read his full story at his blog