This injury often happens due to overuse or repetitive overhead movements, from typical aging, or can also occur suddenly during a fall or injury. There are several types of rotator cuff tears, but the most common are partial thickness tears and full-thickness tears; while massive tears are less common. Partial thickness tears occur when the tendon is partially torn, while full-thickness tears involve a complete severing of the tendon. Massive tears, as the name suggests, are extensive tears that involve at least two of the rotator cuff muscles. Often with a massive tear, it is very difficult to impossible to reach your arm overhead. Understanding the different types of rotator cuff tears can help in the diagnosis and treatment of this painful injury.
If you are experiencing pain or difficulty with reaching and lifting your injured arm, it may be appropriate to see a physical therapist, who can categorize what is mild or what is more severe and may require further treatment.
how physical therapy can help:
While rest may be helpful for mild cases, physical therapy is often necessary for more severe tears. Our skilled physical therapists can evaluate the extent of the injury and create a customized physical therapy treatment plan to aid in the appropriate healing and recovery process allowing you to regain strength and mobility. This may include exercises to strengthen the rotator cuff muscles, manual therapy to improve tissue mobility, and modalities such as electrical stimulation to reduce pain and inflammation. Alongside physical therapy, there are a variety of at-home exercises that can also improve the strength and mobility of the shoulder. By working together, we can help relieve pain and restore optimal shoulder function.
exercises that may help reduce pain:
If you experience more pain with these exercises, hold off from that particular movement.
RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) – These methods work together to reduce pain and swelling. Once the swelling has subsided and you no longer have pain when moving your arm, certain exercises can help heal and prevent future issues.
Cross-Body Stretch – Sitting or standing, use the unaffected arm to lift the affected arm at the elbow and bring it up and across your body. Press gently, just above the elbow, to stretch the shoulder. Hold the stretch for 15 to 20 seconds. Do this exercise 10 to 20 times per day.
Inward & Outward Rotations
- Inward Rotation – Hook or tie one end of the cord or band to the doorknob of a closed door. Holding your elbow close to your side and bent at a 90-degree angle, grasp the band (it should be neither slack nor taut) and pull it in toward your waist, like a swinging door. Hold for five seconds.
- Outward Rotation – Hold your elbow close to your side at a 90-degree angle. Grasp the band and move your forearm outward perpendicular. Hold for five seconds. Do 15 to 20 sets of these exercises each day.
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