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Rotator Cuff Exercises

Posted May 06 2008 3:01pm 1 Comment

One of my best friends complained for over 2 years about his shoulder injury from a snowboarding mishap.rotator cuff injury

Another friend ended up in surgery with a torn rotator cuff after falling on a railing doing some crazy trick.

The latest story from another individual was a popped shoulder and yet another rotator cuff injury where the actual shoulder bone was sticking out!

Don’t even ask me how many men over 35 I’ve talked to at the gym who’s #1 complaint is…


Guess what? It’s pretty common to have some type of shoulder injury as you get older and while it’s bothersome to plain out a life ruining experience, surgery isn’t always the answer and there’s things you can do to alleviate some of the pain.

A rotator cuff injury can affect any age group. Younger people usually experience this pain beginning with some type of traumatic event or injury. Older people defined as “Over 40″ start to feel some pain in shoulders with typical wear and tear.

What is a Rotator Cuff? It’s the set of muscles that attach to the shoulder blade and tendons that ends on the shoulder, together know as the rotator cuff.

It is estimated that more than 3 million people seek advice and care from a physician for rotator cuff problems.

What is a Rotator Cuff Tear in the Shoulder: Potential Signs and Symptoms

  • pain when lifting the arm away from the body
  • pain sometimes accompanied by weakness
  • difficulty in sleeping on the injured side
  • basic overhead repetitive activities cause pain

There’s a lot of talk about prevention of a rotator cuff injury. Maybe you should engage in rotator cuff strengthening exercises? However, the real truth is that most orthopedic surgeons agree that the research isn’t clear on whether strengthening the rotator cuff itself tends to prevent injury.

The best tool is awareness.

Advice for a Possible rotator cuff injury:

  • changing the technique and reducing the activity that aggravates the issues is important
  • seek medical advice if the problem does not go away with rest and anti-inflammatory medication

Only 1 person out of the 3 stories I told you about in the beginning sought medical advice. That’s 33% of the individuals who had shoulder pain that was persistent actually asked for professional advice. The rest, let it heal, the pain persisted for months and over a year and never did fix itself. In fact, the tear probably got worse and while they could have used rotator cuff exercises at home, they did nothing but wait and the tear got too large to just let go.

Seek medical advice! The sooner you get it diagnosed, the quicker you can get on the road to recovery.

In reality, people with shoulder pain should get some type of medical evaluation by a specialist. The signs of a good examination will be one that evaluates not only the rotator cuff but the possibility of nearby bone spurs. The best diagnose comes from an X-Ray and an MRI.

Did you know that a bone spur around the shoulder area can place a person at a higher risk for a tear?

Not every rotator cuff injury means surgery. Even though tendons don’t repair themselves, it’s possible with physical therapy and cortisone injections to reduce the pain significantly. There’s even some rotator cuff exercises you can do at home to help with the pain.

If the pain is significant and does not go away, rotator cuff surgery might be the only option. Treatment options have gone through a significant evolution over the last 5 to 7 years.

A decade ago, any rotator cuff surgery usually meant an open incision. Today, many rotator cuff injuries can be done arthroscopically. This lesser invasive approach allows for a few tiny incisions to be made. As a result, this type of surgery gives the patient reduced healing time, rotator cuff rehabilitation is faster and pain control is better.

In some cases where a bone spur is the problem, it’s possible to treat it with a laser technique.

All of these rotator cuff surgery options can be performed on an out-patient basis. Many times with the patient awake. It’s a significant change from only a few years ago.

The absolute best prevention of a rotator cuff injury is awareness.

If you suspect something, changing your activities or the motion is one way to avoided the potential for a more serious shoulder problem. You can use some rotator cuff exercises to help strengthen the area and do some physcial therapy options at home to reduce the pain. If the pain doesn’t go away, seek medical advice. Many times, surgery can be avoided. If not, the sooner you get the area diagnosed by a specialist, the smaller the tear may be and less invasive prcedures can be used. This speeds up healing time, rehabilitation and allows for better pain control.

Photo of a the rotator cuff surgery by r.rosenberger. Used under a Creative Commons license.

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Original article in Scientific American:

New analysis identifies pitchers at risk for shoulder injury: Scientific American Blog

Arm injuries are commonplace among Major League Baseball pitchers, and such impairments may have cost a few notable pitchers, such as Randy Johnson and Brandon Webb, a chance to play in the 76th All-Star Game tonight.

A pitcher’s shoulder joint can rotate as quickly as 7,000 degrees per second—nearly 20 complete revolutions in one second if the shoulder could rotate completely freely—during a pitch, making it one of the fastest movements possible by the body, and this repetitive motion of the arm contributes to the fatigue-related injuries. Ian Byram and his colleagues at Vanderbilt Medical Center are hoping to reduce the damage by identifying pitchers at risk for injury during the preseason, allowing teams to design unique strength training routines for susceptible athletes.


The group studied 144 major and minor league pitchers from the Colorado Rockies organization. Over a five-year period they took preseason strength measurements of the four muscles that make up the rotator cuff, which holds the shoulder joint intact. They found that weakness in the muscles for rotation away from the center of the body or for lateral movement increased a pitcher’s risk of sustaining an injury.

The results, presented at the American Orthopedic Society of Sports Medicine conference last week, are the first data directly correlating preseason strength of the specific rotator cuff muscles with injury.  Byram also showed the data to the Colorado Rockies trainer last weekend and says the team is excited that the finding may be another useful tool to study players’ injuries.   

My letter to the editor:

Re:Weak shoulder in preseason ups pitcher injury risk-  Ian Byram  Vanderbilt Medical Center
Last Updated: 2009-07-10 12:11:33 -0400 (Reuters Health)

By Megan Rauscher

Hi. My name is Brad Beldner. I am an Anat Baniel Practitioner and Feldenkrais Movement Teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area. It is disappointing that sports medicine still has limitations when trying to understand the dynamics of human movement, causes of repetitive stress injuries, and the ingredients needed to upgrade athletic performance. As a therapist and movement teacher working with many athletes, I find most rotator cuff pain and limitations in movement and performance of the arm, are usually a reflection of how a person organizes their whole body for the specific action they are trying to execute. The rotator cuff muscles will always get over used, inflamed and weak etc, when the rest of the body isn't organized well to support and participate with the movements of the arm. You create a stronger, more powerful, freer and efficient throwing arm, by not having the arm at odds with the rest of the body.  For example, if the structures of your chest (spine, ribs, sternum, clavicles) aren't free enough to organize themselves to accommodate what is happening with the actions of your arm, your arm will always have to work harder at the ball and socket joint and the rotator cuff (and junctions of the humerus, scapula, acromion process, clavicles and their supporting muscles, etc). In other words, any place our bodies do not have good distribution of effort (work load) and movement throughout, the places that aren't doing an efficient job at helping with an action, create pain and stress in the places that are taking on the brunt of the work ( i.e. pitching arm and its rotators cuff muscles). It is very simple to predict who will have a weak rotator cuff and inefficient pitching arm, by looking at how the rest of their body is supporting the action of pitching the ball. Trying to improve the pitching arm by only strengthening the rotator cuff (and surrounding muscles) is an attempt at trying to over power (or compensate for) the 90% of the body that is usually creating the difficulty. Success is attained when integrating the arm with the rest of the body to get the entire body all on the same page to perform the pitch. 

 Predicting performance outcomes and helping athletes organize themselves for optimal action is easier when you step out of the limitations of looking myopically at a one point in a dynamic system, and problem solve by examining the system as a whole and how it relates to its environment.

I am curious what others think about this idea especially Ian Byram and his colleagues  


Brad Beldner

Brad Beldner, CFT, SEP, NCMTB
Anat Baniel Method for Children
Feldenkrais Method
Somatic Experiencing
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