Getting Back in the Game: Treating a Rotator Cuff Injury

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What is the treatment for a rotator cuff injury?

Getting Back in the Game: Treating a Rotator Cuff Injury

We've all heard news reports of baseball players who make big comebacks after rotator cuff surgery. While the rotator cuff is quite susceptible to damage from high intensity throwing, the average Joe can suffer a rotator cuff tear as well and has an equally good chance of getting back in the game. Minor rotator cuff strains or tears can be rehabilitated with a sound program designed by a physical therapist or athletic trainer. Arm pain treatment of this sort begins with modalities such as ice, heat, electrical stimulation, or ultrasound to control symptoms of pain and inflammation. Restoring normal range of motion and joint mobility is essential for getting the complex shoulder joint to move and function properly. This is achieved through:

  • Passive stretching and joint mobilization performed by a qualified clinician
  • Exercises to strengthen the muscles that position and stabilize the scapula or shoulder blade, an important foundation upon which all other arm movement depends
  • Exercises to strengthen and restore conditioning in the rotator cuff muscles themselves, best done with light weight, high repetition movements, and the use of elastic tubing
  • Exercises to strengthen the supporting muscles of the upper back, chest, deltoids and core

Once you have achieved full, pain-free motion, it may be necessary to evaluate or even modify the mechanics you use in your sport or activity to lessen potential strain on the rotator cuff. Sometimes, faulty mechanics are a contributing factor in injuring the rotator cuff, while at other times motion becomes compromised in an effort to avoid further discomfort and maximize function. In either case, restoring normal, safe, and effective mechanics is essential.

If surgery was necessary to repair the tear, the same progression would apply, but it would take longer. Depending on the extent of the tear and intricacy of the repair, your doctor may put limitations on how soon you can perform certain motions. Following the appropriate protocol as you recover from this type of injury will minimize the amount of upper arm pain symptoms you experience and maximize your long term results, ultimately getting you back in the game—whatever yours may be.

To find a clinician in your area, use the free clinician-finder tool on



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