Shoulder Pain/Rotator Cuff Symptoms And Treatments

Shoulders are great when they move your arms freely like when combing your hair, scratching your back or wave\ing your arms.  However, when nerves get irritated or muscles go into spasm then it can quickly become uncomfortable to raise your arm, throw a ball or even sleep on your side at night.  Specific shoulder issues like a frozen shoulder or rotator cuff tears are all too common these days especially for anyone who does repetitive motion everyday.  People like athletes throwing a ball, carpenters pounding nails or even desk worker who compute all day are at high risk for injuring their shoulders.

Interestingly, our shoulders are part of an interconnected web of bones, joints, connective tissues, nerves and of course muscles that give the proper support to function normally.  The four muscles comprising the rotator cuff are the Supraspinatus mm, Infraspinatus mm., Teres Minor mm., and Subscapularis mm..  It's believed by shoulder experts, that our upper extremity can get into about 1,500 positions within a 3 dimensional space around the shoulder joint.  With a healthy shoulder, complex activities like swimming, dancing, and throwing a frisbee seem easy. (1)

Shoulder/Rotator Cuff Pain Causes

  • Subacromial bursitis occurs when the bursa is irritated.  This bursa cushions the rotator cuff tendons from an nearby bone called the acromion. (2)
  • Rotator cuff tear happen when the tendons tear.
  • Direct trauma from a car accident (seat belt or air bag can injure the shoulder0
  • Rotator cuff impingement is when the tendons are compressed between two bones, the acromion and the humerus
  • Frozen shoulder occurs when the humerus adheres to the shoulder blade with muscle spasm often creating intense pain.

Symptoms of Shoulder Pain

  • Arm and Shoulder Weakness
  • Neck and Shoulder Pain when turning head
  • Pain when side sleeping on hurt shoulder
  • Restricted shoulder motion like difficulty scratching back

Shoulder Pain/Rotator Cuff Stretches

1.  Neck Release – Sit up straight then slowly, gently bring your chin toward your chest until you feel the stretch in the back of your neck. Try leaning your head to the left to stretch your right shoulder or leaning your head to the right to stretch your left shoulder. Hold the stretches up to 20 seconds in each direction, breathing deeply as you concentrate on relaxing. Repeat 1-2 times.  The exhale of breathing is where you want to gently press into stretch but always listen to your body.  If anything feels tender or painful, stop immediately.

2.  Arm Across-Chest Stretch – Hold your right hand out in front of you, keeping it next to your waist. Reach your left hand behind your elbow, pulling your right arm to the left and across your chest. If you feel pain in your shoulder, release or lower your arm until the pain subsides. The goal is to be able to pull your right arm across your chest without feeling any pain. Hold for 10-20 seconds then relax and repeat with your left arm. Repeat 1-2 times.  Sometimes using a mirror can be helpful to maintain good form.

Shoulder Pain Relief Treatments

  • Gentle treatments of shoulder or rotator cuff injuries or shoulder pain with the AO Treatment plus trigger point massage therapy.  
  • Medical Massage Therapy is effective for releasing adhesions in the neck and shoulders while promoting healing and relaxation.
  • Dr. Eric also provides individualized stretches, self massage and strengthening exercise for continued rehabilitation to provide shoulder pain relief.