Rotator Cuff: Solutions for Shoulder Pain

Whether there is a chill in the air or summer is heating up, seasonal activities can lead to shoulder pain and rotator cuff injuries. Dr. Mahmud Ibrahim with Performance Spine and Sports Medicine of Lawrenceville said that shoulder injuries are a common complaint heard year-round. “In the winter the cold usually flares up arthritis. Shoveling heavy snow can also aggravate shoulder pain,” said Ibrahim. He said that slips and falls are also a consideration in the winter months, as slips and falls can lead to rotator cuff tears, dislocations or even fractures. In the spring and summer shoulder pain is more likely to be caused by sports. “Many patients haven’t thrown a ball in months and think they can just go out and throw a baseball for an hour without warming up first,” said Ibrahim. One simple solution is to warm up and take it slow the first few days out.

Shoulder pain can be something more than an overuse injury, according to Ibrahim, and there are warning signs. It may seem obvious, but the first sign of trouble is excruciating pain. If the pain is unbearable it’s best to get checked by a medical professional immediately. Other symptoms that may indicate a serious problem are pain that interferes with activities of daily life, or pain that does not improve with two to four weeks of rest, ice and anti-inflammatory medication.

If the pain does not fall into any of the above categories Ibrahim recommends some home exercises to try. One of the exercises is meant to massage the back of the shoulder, called the posterior cuff. It is done by the patient using a lacrosse ball wedged between their back and the wall. It is done by crossing the arms over the chest, and placing the ball on the back of the shoulder then moving up and down to roll the ball around on the back.

Another home exercise requiring no special equipment is called scaption. To do this exercise, stand with both arms out, elbows at a 45 degree angle with thumbs up. Once in position, tighten the abdominal core muscles and slowly lower arms down and then back up to shoulder level. The thumb remains up the whole time.
Ibrahim’s goal is to try and restore function using the most conservative therapy available. His methods are exercise and healthy living to combat problems before they start. Non-invasive techniques like ultrasound technology to diagnose and treat many common tendon, ligament and nerve problems are also employed.

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