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For many people, summertime is all about outdoor sports. However, some of the most popular summer athletic activities, like swimming, tennis, and baseball, involve repetitive, overhead motion that can lead to serious shoulder pain. Unfortunately, the shoulder is a very complicated area of the body with many “moving parts.” It can become damaged in several different ways, so finding an effective treatment for persistent shoulder pain can sometimes be difficult. Dr. Michael Hatrak and the team of chiropractors and massage therapists at Synergy Sports Wellness Institute™ have extensive experience with all kinds of sports injuries, and believe treating the problem begins with understanding the underlying issues that caused it. Answering the most common patient questions, like what is a rotator cuff and how can it become injured, are the first steps to relieving chronic shoulder pain.
What is the Rotator Cuff?
What most people think of as the shoulder is actually an interconnected group of joints, tendons, and muscles that all work together, allowing the arm to move freely in a wide range of motion. The rotator cuff is made up of a group of four muscles (along with the accompanying tendons and ligaments) that surround the shoulder joint and hold the bones together. These muscles lift and rotate the arm and provide stability for the ball of the shoulder at the heart of the joint, so when they are injured the entire arm can be affected.
How Can the Rotator Cuff Become Injured?
Because the muscles and tendons that make up the rotator cuff are so large and versatile, they can be subject to injury in a variety of different ways:
- Inflammation: Strenuous overhead motions cause microscopic tears in the fabric of the muscle. If these are repeated without giving the body sufficient time to recover, the damage accumulates, resulting in a condition called overuse syndrome. The affected muscles and tissues become inflamed, making them stiff and sore.
- Impingement: Improper form or posture during exercise or physical activity can allow the shoulder blade to put pressure, or “impinge,” on the underlying soft tissues when the arm is lifted away from the body. This pressure irritates the area, causing inflammation, pain and limiting movement.
- Instability: Shoulder instability (commonly called a dislocated shoulder) occurs when the head of the upper arm bone is forced out of the shoulder socket. This can happen as a result of a sudden injury or from overuse. Once the ligaments, tendons, and muscles around the shoulder become loose or torn, dislocations can occur repeatedly.
- Tendon Tears: A sudden trauma can cause a tear in one or more of the tendons in the rotator cuff, resulting in sudden pain and immobility. Tendon tears are often difficult to treat and may require Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy to accelerate the healing process.
Treatments for problems with the rotator cuff can vary, depending on the severity of the injury to the tendons and the underlying condition of the patient. Mild issues resulting from overuse can usually be treated with ice, rest, and therapies that reduce inflammation, such as Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, Kinesiology Taping, or Trigger Point Therapy. Patients with more severe and persistent pain or motion limitation may often benefit from other, more advanced treatment options. The certified chiropractors and massage therapists at Synergy Sports Wellness Institute™ use sophisticated diagnostic methods, like the Advanced Muscle Integration Technique (AMIT) to specifically diagnose the muscles involved so that they can get you back to what you love to do quickly. If you would like more information about shoulder injuries, or about any of the other ways that our expert chiropractors and massage therapists may be able to help you, please contact the Synergy Sports Wellness Institute™ today. Don’t forget to follow us on social media for the latest news and information about sports medicine and chiropractic care in Atlanta.