Chronic Rotator Cuff Pain
If you’re experiencing shoulder pain that radiates down your arm and is painful even at rest, it’s very likely you have Rotator Cuff Dysfunction, causing inflammation of the muscles, tendons, and joint space between your upper arm and shoulder blade. The experienced team at Star Health & Aesthetics, can determine if your shoulder pain is due to rotator cuff tendonitis and provide the most appropriate treatment.
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What is rotator cuff tendonitis/tendinopathy?
Rotator cuff tendonitis (tendinopathy) is probably the most common cause of gradual onset shoulder pain and is inflammation of the tendons. Rotator cuff tendinopathy is probably a more accurate name for this injury. The ‘itis’ at the end of tendonitis refers to inflammation. The term tendinopathy includes ‘degeneration’ or wear and tear of the tendon as well.
Degeneration is more common in chronic injuries. Acute inflammation cells have been shown not to be present in long term injuries. Other similar terms include tenosynovitis which is degeneration of the sheath surrounding the tendon.
Lack of blood flow to the injured area leads to the inability for the tendon/muscle to repair itself. After the age of 30, we have a gradual decrease in capillary blood flow to all of our tendons.
- Shoulder pain which has developed gradually over a period of days or weeks. Often patients are unable to determine a specific point in time when the injury occurred.
- Your shoulder will be painful even at rest.
- Symptoms get worse if you lift you do a lot of overhead movements such as in racket sports or swimming.
- Pain is usually less likely with movements below shoulder height and it may become worse at night.
- Your shoulder is likely to be tender when pressing in on the affected tendon, which may also feel thickened.
- A creaking feeling called crepitus may be felt when moving your shoulder.
- An MRI scan can confirm the diagnosis and identify any tearing of the tendon.
Rotator cuff injury is more likely if you have had a previous injury such as a rotator cuff strain or partial dislocation of the shoulder.
Overuse is the underlying cause. During throwing or overhead racket sports, huge forces are involved in slowing the arm down. It is the rotator cuff muscles which do this. They work eccentrically, which means they contract whilst they are lengthening.
Patients who have had a previous rotator cuff strain are more prone to developing tendonitis, especially if they didn’t rest or rehabilitate it properly.
If there has been any calcification (unwanted bone cells) in the tendon then treatment can be difficult. Extracorporeal shock wave therapy may help along with surgical removal through keyhole surgery could be indicated.
Other causes include:
- Working at a desk for long periods and using a mouse or keyboard can also contribute to overuse, particularly if you have poor posture.
- The tiny shoulder movements required to work with a computer mouse can add up over time.
- A hunched and rounded shoulder posture reduces the space in the joint through which the rotator cuff tendons pass.
- This can lead to the tendons rubbing on the underside of the acromion process at the top of the shoulder joint.
- Repeated friction leads to pain and degeneration. Thickening of the tendon can make the situation even worse and may lead to an impingement syndrome.
Traditional Treatment for rotator cuff tendonitis
Treatment for rotator cuff tendinopathy consists of two parts. The first priority is to treat the symptoms, reduce pain and inflammation in order to allow normal movement. The second aspect is to address the underlying causes and correct and correct them.
Rest – from activities which cause pain. The more you use the shoulder the longer it will take to heal and it may become chronic. Maintain fitness doing other activities such as running or cycling. Avoid any shoulder exercises or weight training and in particular, avoid the activities which caused the injury in the first place.
Apply ice or cold therapy to reduce pain and inflammation. Ice can be applied every hour for 10 minutes initially reducing to 15 minutes every 3-4 hours as required to reduce pain and inflammation.
Medication – a doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen which may help in the early stages but less so long term. Ibuprofen should not be taken if you have asthma and your doctor will always check for contraindications before prescribing medication.
Physical Therapy– a good therapist will help determine the cause of the injury whether that be a poor technique or work-related repetitive overuse and identify strategies or changes to avoid the injury recurring. In particular poor posture and muscle imbalances can be corrected with exercises, taping and workspace evaluation.
If these treatments fail to improve your pain, surgery may be recommended.
Fix your rotator cuff pain with our s.t.a.r. Method (ESWT™ + EMTT™ + PRP™)
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Radial Pressure Wave (RPW) + Focused Shock Wave (FSW) + Extracorporeal Megnetotransduction (EMTT™) + Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP)
S.T.A.R. Therapy is a more advanced, yet non-surgical, approach that directly stimulates repair of the structures. The treatment is done around the entire shoulder, depending on where the soft tissue damage is located. This stimulates the body to re-initiate the natural healing cascade to areas that otherwise are not healing on their own. Patients are able to continue working and conducting activities of daily living during the treatment series.
The correct treatment is to strengthen the muscles, tendons, and ligaments of the shoulder to create stability, and strengthen the muscle attachments that are inflamed due to the body’s attempt to strengthen the area. ESWT and EMTT allows for new blood vessel formation to fix the problem at the source while PRP allows for your body’s own healing cells to be injected directly into the injured area.
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