Rotator cuff syndrome
Shoulder pain is often caused by what is known as rotator cuff syndrome, which occurs when the tendons in the rotator cuff of the shoulder blade get pinched.
Of all the joints in your body, the shoulder has the greatest mobility. It consists of four joints. The two largest joints are formed by the attachment between the upper arm bone and the shoulder blade, as well as the attachment between the shoulder blade and the chest wall.
The attachment between your upper arm bone and you shoulder blade consists of a very small socket and a large head. This combination gives the arm the ability to move in many different directions. From a structural point of view, this high flexibility of the ball and socket joint means a high risk of becoming destabilized. Several anatomical structures help compensate and stabilize the shoulder. These include the joint capsule, the ligament, the diaphragm and the rotator cuff itself.
- The most common cause of pain in the shoulder is the so-called rotator cuff syndrome.
- The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that are placed like ‘cuffs’ around the head of your upper arm bone. The function of these muscles is to stabilize your shoulder joint during movement.
- Shoulder pain arises when your rotator cuff muscles become clamped or pinched under the shoulder bone ceiling.
- Alternatively, pain can arise due to the muscles becoming sore and swollen from overloading.
The rotator cuff consists of four smaller muscles, which form a series of ‘cuffs’ around the head of the upper arm bone. The most important function of the rotator cuff is to stabilize the shoulder joint during movement. The shoulder blade needs to be positioned and move correctly for the shoulder to function normally.
The four muscles of your rotator cuff protrude (jut out) from the shoulder blade, slide under a bone ceiling and attach to your upper arm. Different conditions can cause the rotator cuff to be clamped under the bone ceiling, which can result in your tendons becoming pinched.
Damage to your rotator cuff is often the result of performing intense, repetitive or unusual arm movements above shoulder height e.g. when you are painting a ceiling or playing badminton. With age, your tendons weaken naturally, increasing your risk of injury.
When your shoulder is overloaded, the tendon becomes sore and swollen. This is a sign of inflammation. Your tendon can also become trapped under the bone ceiling, which results in even greater pressure being put on the tendon. In this case, your shoulder needs relief and controlled rehabilitation exercises.
- Shoulder pain is often the result of performing intense and repetitive arm movements above shoulder height.
- Advancing age weakens your rotator cuff and increases your risk of experiencing shoulder pain.
- Treatment consists of relief and targeted rehabilitation exercises. Scroll down to find a sample of effective shoulder exercises from the Injurymap app.
Diagnosis and treatment
Your shoulder must, first and foremost, be relieved of all kinds of painful loads, especially when using the shoulder in its outer positions.
Start by performing controlled exercises consisting of small movements. This will typically be in the form of low resistance movement exercises, which stimulate your shoulder and help it return to normal functionality.
Use the Injurymap screening tool to find out if you are ready to treat your shoulder pain with rehabilitative exercises. Get 2 weeks free access now.
As your rehabilitation progresses, you will need to put greater focus on the muscle balance around your shoulder as well as the strength and stability of the muscles controlling your shoulder blade and the small rotator cuff tendons.
Strength exercises can prepare you to cope with everyday activties’s arm loads and pressures. They help the arm and shoulder handle loads and perform normal activities involving lifting the arm above shoulder height. The best way to strengthen this area of your body is high resistance strength training.