Rotator cuff injuries may not be something you are personally familiar with, but they are fairly common. The shoulder is a complex joint that needs to be able to move like a ball in a socket to accomplish everything from everyday tasks to extraordinary feats done only by talented athletes.
Shoulder injuries can happen to anyone, although more traumatic injuries tend to occur in the context of intense physical activity, such as sporting events. If you’ve hurt your rotator cuff, it is likely that you need to see an orthopedic specialist.
There are two common types of rotator cuff injuries. The less common one is a tear. The tendons or muscles of the shoulder can become torn as a result of trauma. The rotator cuff impingement is the injury that happens with a greater frequency and can occur any time the rotator cuff becomes swollen and pinches or cramps as a result.
Obviously, in the event of such an injury, appropriate medical care should be sought out, depending upon the severity of the incident and resulting injury. Oftentimes, rotator cuff injuries can be healed without the need for surgical intervention.
In most cases, the injured person should enlist the RICE protocol for treating the injury and easing pain. This means REST the entire arm, ICE the shoulder, COMPRESS the injured area, and ELEVATE the arm to reduce swelling.
Once the RICE method has had time to reduce overall swelling and alleviate some of the pain, you might be ready to attempt some stretches and exercises that will return your shoulder to normal effectively and efficiently.
Here are several stretches to aid in your recovery following a rotator cuff injury.
Lawn Mower Stretch
This stretch is aptly named to mimic the look and feel of starting a lawnmower with a pull of a resistance band. Place the band underneath the foot opposite your injured shoulder. You will pull using the hand of your injured shoulder arm from about the height of your opposite knee. Continue the pulling motion up and rotate your body while you do so. The band should stretch all the way to your shoulder that has sustained the injury. Repeat this stretch in repetitions of 10 for 2-3 sets.
Reverse Fly Stretch
With shoulder-width feet firmly placed on the floor, and your back slightly bent forward at the waist, raise two light-weight free weights (one in each hand) all the way up until your arms form a T-shape with your body. Return the weights to your sides just in front of your knees. For the health of your injured shoulder, do not attempt to raise your arms above the height of your shoulders. Repeat this stretch for 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions.
Perhaps the simplest of the shoulder stretches that our team of orthopedic specialists recommends is the door stretch. This can be an excellent stretch to begin or end a workout with, as it has a definite warm-up/cool-down effect on your shoulders, both injured and healthy.
Place your hands on each side of a door frame, being careful to do so at or below the height of your shoulders (we do not want to overextend our injured shoulder). Lean slightly forward and then take steps, alternating if you like, to allow your shoulder muscles to stretch with the movement of your steps.
High/Low Row Stretch
Secure your resistance band to a reliable overhead source, so that you will be able to pull on it without your band coming loose and causing further injury. Take a knee, being sure to make the knee on the side of your injured shoulder the one that rests on the floor. Place the opposite hand on your raised knee, and grip the resistance band with your injured arm hand. Pull downward without twisting the arm. Draw your elbow to your midsection and repeat this exercise for 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions.
Side Rotation Stretch
Lie down on your uninjured side and let your injured arm elbow rest on your waist. Your hand and forearm will fall across your stomach. This is where your dumbbell is handy! Grab your weight and lift it at a ninety-degree angle up from the ground toward your waist. Return the weight to the ground, and repeat this stretch for 10 repetitions 2-3 times.
If you need further medical assistance from an orthopedic specialist, call the doctors at AICA Orthopedics today. We’ve treated many rotator cuff injuries and have many more exercises to help you feel better faster! Contact us today to schedule your appointment.