Understanding Rotator Cuff Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment
If you’re experiencing shoulder pain, it could be a sign of a rotator cuff injury or rotator cuff syndrome. Our chiropractic physicians at Ravenswood Chiropractic in Chicago are experts in shoulder pain and will help you understand the condition and how to treat it.
The shoulder is incredible and intricate, capable of more range of motion than any other joint in your body. This range of motion and functionality is necessary to interact effectively and efficiently with the world around us. The shoulder joint is designed to be a very loose ball and socket joint to achieve this incredible range of motion. Since it is so flexible, it requires extra support to prevent dislocations, and the shoulder joint receives that support from 4 muscles collectively called the rotator cuff. Their names are Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus, Subscapularis, and Teres Minor.
Rotator cuff syndrome is a common cause of shoulder pain, especially among athletes and older adults. It is an umbrella term that includes any injury from minor strains to tears of your rotator cuff muscles or tendons, causing them to become inflamed or damaged. But first, let’s learn about this condition’s symptoms, causes, and effective treatment options.
What is Rotator Cuff Syndrome?
Rotator cuff syndrome is a common condition that affects the shoulder joint. The rotator cuff provides stability and allows for movement of your shoulder joint. However, these tendons can become injured (tendinopathy) or inflamed (tendonitis), or disorganized (tendinosis), causing pain and limiting mobility. The supraspinatus tendon is the most commonly affected tendon in rotator cuff syndrome. This can result in pain, weakness, and a limited range of motion in the shoulder.
Additionally, muscles can be strained or sprained. Bursa can become inflamed, as in Shoulder Bursitis. And there can even be partial to full-thickness tears of muscles or tendons. Therefore, Rotator Cuff Syndrome is an encompassing term used to describe any or some of these conditions co-occurring, as is common in injuries and overuse injuries.
Where is Rotator Cuff Pain Felt ?
If you’re experiencing rotator cuff pain, you’ll likely feel it on the side of your upper arm. This pain can be achy or sharp, especially when you move your arm in specific ways. You may also notice weakness in your shoulder, making it difficult to lift your arm or perform overhead activities like playing tennis or lifting weights. You may also experience a clicking or popping sensation when moving your arm with or without pain. In some cases, the pain may radiate down your arm or into your neck. If you are experiencing severe pain or any of these symptoms for more than a week, seeing a chiropractor or healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan is essential.
Causes of Rotator Cuff Syndrome
Various factors, including overuse, injury, and degeneration, can cause rotator cuff syndrome. Overuse is a common cause, especially among athletes who engage in repetitive overhead motions, such as throwing a ball. Injury can also cause rotator cuff syndromes, such as a fall or direct blow to the shoulder. Degeneration is another cause, which occurs naturally as we age, and the tendons and muscles in the shoulder weaken over time. Other factors that can increase the risk of developing rotator cuff syndrome include poor posture, smoking, and certain medical conditions such as diabetes and thyroid disorders.
Examination and Diagnosis
Our Chiropractors typically begin with a medical history and physical examination when diagnosing rotator cuff syndrome. During the physical exam, your chiropractor will assess the range of motion in the affected shoulder and any pain or weakness. They will also perform specific orthopedic tests to determine which shoulder structures are affected and the severity of the injury. Additionally, your chiropractor may order imaging tests such as an X-Ray, MRI, or ultrasound to get a better look at the shoulder joint and surrounding tissues.
Treatment Options for Rotator Cuff Syndrome
Treatment options for rotator cuff syndrome vary depending on the cause and severity of the condition. In mild cases, rest and physical therapy may be recommended to help strengthen the muscles and improve the range of motion. Radial Shockwave Therapy, Class IV Laser, and Chiropractic Care may be necessary to repair the damaged tendon, bursa, or muscle in more severe cases. In addition, your chiropractor may include massage therapy and acupuncture in your treatment plan and will work with you to determine the best course of treatment for your individual needs.
Conservative Treatment of Rotator Cuff Syndrome includes Effective Non-surgical, Non-steroidal Treatments.
Surgery is unnecessary for most patients with Rotator Cuff Syndrome to alleviate pain and improve shoulder function. In fact, during my 20 years of treating Rotator Cuff patients, 95% of our patients under active treatment plans find relief through non-surgical treatments such as Class IV Laser or Radial Shockwave Therapy provided at our office. We combine these advanced therapies with additional supportive care, including physical therapy, chiropractic, acupuncture, rest, and ice.
It is essential to seek medical attention if you are experiencing symptoms of rotator cuff syndrome to prevent further damage and improve your quality of life.
CLASS IV LASER
Class IV Laser Therapy is one of the most effective treatment options for rotator cuff syndrome that uses high-energy photons (light) to stimulate tissue regeneration. This therapy can be used alongside chiropractic care and has been shown to have little-to-no side effects. In addition, Class IV Laser therapy may encourage cellular repair by promoting ATP production in the mitochondria within cells, reducing pain and discomfort for patients. Laser therapy can be administered in-office in as little as 5 minutes twice a week. Results vary; however, laser therapy may generally be used for about three weeks before symptoms start to resolve and 6-8 weeks for complete resolution depending on the severity of your rotator cuff injury.
RADIAL SHOCKWAVE THERAPY
If you suffer from rotator cuff syndrome, consider radial shockwave therapy as a treatment option. This non-invasive and safe therapy has proven effective in treating shoulder pain. Although the name may initially seem intimidating, it’s an excellent choice for those looking for a non-surgical solution.
This non-invasive therapy uses sound waves to target pain, tightness, scar tissue, tendinopathies, and tears, stimulating muscles and increasing circulation to promote healing. When paired with chiropractic, and physical therapy, radial shockwave therapy has been shown to improve mobility, decrease pain, increase range of motion, and strengthen the rotator cuff. While a minimum of three sessions is typically needed for significant improvement, continuous treatment length depends on the severity of the injury and the patient’s needs.
If you’re interested in exploring shockwave therapy as a treatment option, contact Ravenswood Chiropractic in Chicago today for a free consultation to discuss your rotator cuff symptoms and treatment options.
If you suffer from rotator cuff syndrome, our chiropractic team will create a personalized rehabilitation plan tailored to your needs. We understand every injury is unique, so we’ll carefully consider your best treatment options. We aim to alleviate your pain and inflammation and may use various techniques. Chiropractic care offers a natural approach to healing your rotator cuff. Our chiropractors use hands-on methods to correctly align your shoulder and adjacent structures, allowing your shoulder to move and function as intended. At Ravenswood Chiropractic in Chicago, Chiropractic care can help with various symptoms associated with a rotator cuff injury, including stiffness and pain.
Our chiropractors work closely with our physical therapy team to restore healthy joint mobility and range of motion through stretches, exercises, and soft tissue mobilization. Overall, chiropractic care is a safe and effective way to promote healing and recovery from a torn rotator cuff without the side effects of steroid injections or medications. If you live in Chicago, you can schedule a free consultation for your shoulder pain to determine what treatment options suit you.
The rotator cuff comprises four muscles that work together to control shoulder movement and stability. These muscles are the subscapularis, supraspinatus, infraspinatus, and teres minor. When these muscles become inflamed or injured, it can cause pain, limited mobility, and weakness in the shoulder joint. However, proper treatment and rehabilitation can help alleviate symptoms and restore function.
Fortunately, once the inflammation is relieved and the shoulder joint functions better, effective treatments are available to further your recovery, including strengthening exercises and physical therapy.
Following a prescribed exercise plan can restore your shoulder’s movement and flexibility while maintaining the muscles that support it. This can help to alleviate pain and prevent future injuries from occurring.
An example of one of the ways to help prevent and treat this condition is to focus on restoring scapular control. This involves massage therapy, exercises, and techniques that help improve the stability and movement of the shoulder blade, which can, in turn, reduce strain on the rotator cuff muscles and tendons.
Dry needling is a technique used to relieve muscle tension and soreness by inserting tiny acupuncture needles into these muscles to help them relax. The rotator cuff muscles create an exit point for the radial nerve, which innervates the back of the arm, forearm, and hand. Tight muscles can compress this nerve, causing tingling, numbness, or weakness in the arm. Keeping these muscles loose makes the nerve less likely to become irritated and cause these symptoms. *If you are experiencing nerve pain, Class IV Laser is also effective at restoring nerve function and is often prescribed alongside other therapies like dry needling.
Acupuncture is a popular treatment for rotator cuff injuries. Inserting needles into the affected area increases blood flow, delivering more nutrients and oxygen to the shoulder tissues and promoting healing. The rotator cuff tendons have limited blood flow, making it difficult for the body to heal injuries in this area.
Similar to acupuncture, Class IV Laser and Radial Shockwave Therapy can also stimulate blood flow deep into the rotator cuff and shoulder region, aiding in healing damaged tissue. These therapies are often used alongside acupuncture to accelerate healing.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, acupuncture has been used to treat rotator cuff pain, which is believed to be caused by a blockage or stagnation of qi and blood in the shoulder area. Traditional Chinese Medicine views the Large Intestine and Small Intestine meridians as involved in this condition.
Acupuncture treatment aims to alleviate pain, reduce inflammation, and improve the range of motion and strength by promoting the flow of qi and blood, clearing blockages, and removing any excess dampness or heat in the shoulder region.
From a Western perspective: Acupuncture is effective in treating rotator cuff injuries. This is because acupuncture stimulates the sensory nerve endings of skin and muscle tissue, promoting the release of neuropeptides and other substances. Studies have shown that acupuncture can be a valuable treatment option for those suffering from rotator cuff injuries.
Finding the right massage therapist can make all the difference if you suffer from rotator cuff syndrome.
The subscapularis muscle deep under your shoulder blade is often the culprit and can be challenging to reach. However, a skilled massage therapist will know how to reach and treat this muscle, which is the strongest rotator cuff muscle and accounts for nearly half of the joint’s strength.
Infraspinatus and Teres Minor
Massage can be a helpful treatment option if you’re experiencing strain or tendinitis in your infraspinatus and teres minor muscles. Addressing postural issues contributing to a rounded shoulder posture is essential, as this can stress these muscles.
Massage therapy can be highly effective if you suffer from rotator cuff syndrome. By targeting the affected area, massage can help reduce inflammation and alleviate pain while loosening tight muscles.
At Ravenswood Chiropractic in Chicago, our experienced massage therapists are skilled in identifying and treating rotator cuff injuries and can provide personalized massage sessions tailored to your needs. So contact us today to schedule your appointment and start feeling better!
If you are experiencing pain or discomfort in your shoulder, it may be due to rotator cuff syndrome. One of the most common treatments for this condition is rest. In addition, your chiropractor may recommend that you limit overhead activities and take a break from any actions that may be causing strain on your shoulder. Giving your shoulder time to heal and recover can help alleviate symptoms and prevent further damage to your rotator cuff.
If you are experiencing shoulder pain due to rotator cuff syndrome, modifying your activities to avoid any movements that exacerbate the pain is essential. This may mean temporarily avoiding specific exercises or activities until the pain subsides and the muscles can heal. Your chiropractor can help with activity modification recommendations.
ICE & HEAT
If you’re experiencing pain in your rotator cuff, applying ice or a cold pack can help reduce swelling and discomfort. Place the ice or cold pack on your shoulder for 10 to 20 minutes every 1 to 2 hours while awake for the next three days. Place a thin cloth between the ice pack and your skin to prevent skin damage. After 2 or 3 days, if there is no swelling, you can switch to heat therapy. Use a warm water bottle or a warm cloth on your shoulder. Avoid any activities that cause you pain or discomfort.
Rotator cuff syndrome is a common condition. Unfortunately, while surgery is sometimes an option for treatment, many patients opt for non-surgical methods due to the associated risks of surgery.
Rotator cuff syndrome includes conditions where the tendons and muscles in the shoulder become inflamed or damaged, such as impingement, tendonitis, and bursitis. If left untreated, the injury can cause a tear in the rotator cuff. Over time, it may worsen and increase in size, leading to more severe pain and limited mobility in the affected shoulder. Therefore, seeking medical attention and treatment immediately is essential to prevent surgery or further damage.
Conservative treatment typically involves physical therapy exercises to restore strength and flexibility to the affected area. With proper care and rehabilitation, most people with Rotator Cuff Syndrome can regain the full function of their shoulder. However, suppose your rotator cuff syndrome does not respond to conservative treatment trials. In that case, it may be time to try Class IV laser Treatment or Radial Shockwave Therapy at Ravenswood Chiropractic in Chicago – we offer free consultations to see which treatment option may be best for you.
Complications Of Rotator Cuff Syndrome
If left untreated, rotator cuff syndrome can cause your condition to worsen and lead to progressive deterioration of your shoulder joint, including tears. Therefore, early diagnosing and treating this condition is essential to prevent severe complications.
Get Help For Your Rotator Cuff Injury at Ravenswood Chiropractic
As the shoulder joint is a complex and delicate structure, it is essential to seek medical attention if you suspect you may have rotator cuff syndrome. We offer free consultations that you can book online or by calling or texting us at 773.878.7330.