Your rotator cuff and how to prevent breakdown

25% of the population will develop shoulder pain in their lifetime

The basics of anatomy

The shoulder is a ball (head of the humerus) that sits in a socket (glenoid fossa – part of the shoulder blade) – which is held together in a truly magical form by an array of muscles that ultimately work together to bring about some truly awesome feats.

“Did you know that the shoulder joint has the most range of any joint in the body.”

The four key muscles responsible for maintaining shoulder stability and providing strength for everyday tasks are the rotator cuff muscles. These are the; Supraspinatus, Subscapularis, Infraspinatus and Teres Minor.

Our other friend is the ‘acromion’. This is a flat bone that sits above the ball (top of arm), and holds the shoulder to the rest of the body by allowing muscles to connect to the shoulder blade. Between the ball and the acromion, lies the ‘sub-acromial space’. This structure is vital to understanding rotator cuff injuries and shoulder pain. This is because, when the head of the humerus moves, so does the shoulder blade. This complicated relationship, can cause havoc if parts of the rotator cuff mess up!

Below are some of the most common injuries seen by Physiotherapists; 

  • Subacromial Impingement or SAI
  • Rotator Cuff Tendinopathy
  • Frozen Shoulder
  • Arthritis of Shoulder
  • Myofascial Trigger Points

Most of these are caused by poor care for our shoulders, and more specifically, our rotator cuff.

Why does it all fall apart?

Your 4 rotator cuff muscles are akin to 4 horses pulling a cart – they all work together to lift/push/pull/stabilise and hold the shoulder, and body. If one is weaker, then the other horses have to take up the slack, or if stronger, they take away the natural strength training away and compounds the weaker muscles. This trajectory is heading towards injury.

So why would some be weaker, and others stronger? Were we designed incorrectly? Have I got a disease? The answer is no, very simply, it is our lifestyle!

The human body was created for activities such as, walking, running, swimming, climbing – not sitting tied to a desk for long periods of time, relentless tapping on our phones/devices, or indeed slumped into a sofa binge-watching netflix!

Now, the sad truth is, that due to our long-standing affair with sitting, our culture is turning into ‘C’ shapes and along with this, comes the truth behind the rising level of shoulder injuries.

How to prevent breakdown of your shoulder?

  1. “Prevention is better than cure” – so the saying goes. Unfortunately, this really is true. We can either wait until our lifestyle pulls our shoulders so far out of line that underlying damage starts and the long road out of the biomechanical mess begins, let alone the impact on our neck and back, or we can start today and get on the road to strength!
  2. You need to assess 2 key areas and make changes. You NEED both actions to WIN. One without the other and you will be spinning the wheels of rehab and getting nowhere fast.
    1. What are you doing that is positively impacting your shoulders?This can include;
      • strengthening your upper back
      • stretching your pectoralis muscles
      • strengthening the external rotators of your shoulders
      • awareness of posture at rest and during play – and more…
    2. What are you doing that is negatively impacting your shoulders?For example;
      • poor desk set-up/laptop working
      • too many chest presses/not enough rows
      • sitting posture
      • lifting weights far too heavy for you

Your 3 Takeaways

  1. Your shoulders need intentional tender loving care, to prevent breakdown, and injury.
  2. You have the ability to wage war on your shoulders, or bring peace through the actions you take, or indeed, don’t take.
  3. Stay connected with Reflex Health to help you through your rehab journey – and share the joy with others!

References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4836557/

https://ard.bmj.com/content/56/5/308

https://www.physio-pedia.com/Epidemiology_of_Shoulder_Pain

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