You’ve heard people talk about their rotator cuff. They have pain, it’s near their shoulder, but the details always seem so vague. What kind of body part is a rotator cuff? And how does it become injured? Here are six things to know to help clear up any rotator cuff confusion you may have:
1) Your rotator cuff is a group of muscles. It’s not a single thing, but four muscles that work to keep your arm in place in what is a fairly shallow shoulder socket. It consists of:
- Supraspinatus, a muscle found across the top of your scapula, or shoulder blade. It works to lift your arm up from the side and overhead.
- Infraspinatus, which is below the spiny ridge at top of your scapula. It helps move your arm outward like you’re opening up for a big hug.
- Subscapularis, a muscle found on the inside (chest side) of your scapula. It works to move your arm inward like you’re closing your arms for that big hug.
- Teres Minor, which is a small muscle that connects your scapula to the top of your humerus (the long bone in your upper arm). It helps with lifting and rotating your arm.
2) The majority of rotator cuff injuries occur to the supraspinatus muscle at the top of your shoulder blade. That’s because the supraspinatus is a big player whenever you lift your arm overhead, throw, brush your hair or paint a wall. You know this muscle is involved if you begin to lift your arm and feel a painful catch that sends a lightning bolt of pain from your shoulder down your arm.
3) A rotator cuff problem can also occur when any of the four muscles become pulled or torn, when the tendons become inflamed, or when the tendons become pinched where they pass under the bones at the top of your shoulder.
4) Your rotator cuff can be injured by trauma, such as an accident, fall or whiplash injury. The muscles can also be injured by your dog pulling on its leash or overuse—repetitive motions that lead to inflammation and injury.
5) A large number of rotator cuff problems are also caused by your lifestyle. Being hunched over a computer, constantly looking down at your phone, and walking pitched forward with your shoulders hunched to carry a backpack or handbag all are tough on your rotator cuff muscles. That’s because it stresses the muscles across your upper back—especially those that make up your rotator cuff—and shortens and weakens the pectoral muscles of your upper chest.
6) There are a number of ways to treat rotator cuff pain, unless one of the muscles is completely torn. At BodaHealth, our practitioners have a variety of methods that can help relieve the pain, support healing and prevent further injuries to your rotator cuff. They include acupuncture, cold laser therapy, injection treatments, shockwave therapy, massage and therapeutic exercise (exercise physiology).
While your rotator cuff may have seemed like some abstract body part, this should clear up some of the confusion surrounding this important group of muscles. The final word is that there are many ways to injure or aggravate your rotator cuff, but at BodaHealth, we have almost as many ways to treat it! If you’re experiencing rotator cuff or shoulder pain, contact us today for a thorough assessment and to find out how we can help you become pain-free.
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Dr. Jeda Boughton is a Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Registered Acupuncturist in Vancouver. She is also a Registered Herbologist and the founder of BodaHealth.