Rotator Cuff Tear: Treatment & Recovery

Introduction

Recovering from a rotator cuff injury can be a long and arduous process but it does not mean you have to give up the fitness routine you have created for yourself. Understanding what your rotator cuff is, and how it works, will allow you to better modify your daily regimen and boot camp workout without sacrificing the hard work you will have already put in.

Your rotator cuff (Figure 1) is a group of tendons and muscles surrounding your shoulder joint and keeping the top of your upper arm bone (your humerus) firmly secured within the socket of your shoulder. This group of tissues also helps you lift and rotate your arm. Rotator cuff injuries tend to cause a dull aching pain in your shoulder that often gets worse when you try to sleep on the damaged side.

Figure 1: Anatomy of the rotator cuff

Causes

Rotator cuff tears commonly occur in two different types, partial and complete.

  • A partial tear in your rotator cuff happens when the tissue protecting the top of your shoulder becomes frayed or sustains damage without being entirely torn.
  • A complete tear occurs when that same tissue is torn all the way through or when the tissue is pulled off of your bone.

Rotator cuff strains and tears are common injuries among athletes who play sports like baseball or basketball and other sports that require the athletes to their arms strenuously. It can also occur in people who are not athletes, so don’t think you are out of the woods simply because your not an athlete. For example, it is fairly common in occupations such as painting and construction.

This type of injury is one that can occur over time from simple wear and tear that you place on your body from normal everyday activities. Engaging in an activity where you continuously repeat the same motion with your arm over and over can also result in a tear in your rotator cuff. Lifting a heavy object or falling on your arm are two other ways you could tear your rotator cuff. Keep this in mind if you are planning on attending boot camp in the near future.

Symptoms

  • Shoulder weakness;
  • Trouble lifting things;
  • Audibly popping/clicking when you move your arm;
  • Difficulty raising arm above head; and
  • Pain when lay on the injured side

If you find that you are experiencing some of these symptoms you should see your medical professional and have it evaluated. Leaving a torn rotator cuff untreated can lead to severe complications in the future making it much more difficult to treat.

Treatment and Recovery

In extreme cases, surgery may be necessary to properly treat a torn rotator cuff, especially if you have suffered a complete tear. In many cases surgery is not required, instead, your doctor may want you to go through physical therapy to help strengthen the muscles in your shoulder.

Treating a torn rotator cuff can consist of exercises that you do at home and rotator cuff shoulder braces that give your rotator cuff additional support and protection. Braces for your shoulder and/or arm can help give the damaged tissue in your shoulder time to heal. Definitely, something you might want to bring along when going to any kind of boot camp after a rotator cuff injury. Be sure to give your body time enough to heal, you do not want to risk re-injury or any further injury to your shoulder.

When recovering from this type of injury be sure to rest and follow your medical professional’s instructions, especially if you have had surgery. Anti-inflammatory drugs, as well as ice, can help with swelling and pain. Be sure you are completely physically ready before going back to boot camp, or any sports or workout routines.

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