Shoulder Injury Treatment: A Conservative Approach

Rotator Cuff Pain Fort Collins

The shoulder is labyrinth of tendons, muscles, nerves, and circulatory components. The most infamous injury of the shoulder is injury to the rotator cuff. There are only 4 muscles that attach your shoulder blade (scapula) to the upper part of your arm (the humerus). These 4 rotator cuff muscles are the supraspintaus, the infraspinatus, the teres minor, and the subscapularis. The diagram below shows how these muscles connect these two bones of the shoulder. (anterior=front, posterior=back)

The supraspinatus is the first muscle that fires in order for you to stabilize your arm before arm movement in a normal movement pattern and is commonly not working properly in an injured shoulder. It also controls the movement of lifting your arm out to the side (the first 30 degrees),and aids in stabilizing the shoulder when your arm is lifted above 90 degrees (held directly out to the side). The infraspinatus’s job is external rotation of the shoulder (think of a wind up to throw a baseball). It also stabilizes the back (posterior part) of the shoulder. The teres minor assists the infraspinatus in its actions. The subscapularis, the only muscle on the anterior aspect (front part) of the scapula, internally rotates the arm (think throwing the baseball). To put it simply, the rotator cuff muscles are involved with just about every movement you make with your shoulder.

Tendonitis of the rotator cuff means there is an inflammation in the shoulder where the muscle attaches to the bone (called a tendon). It is commonly caused by overuse, repetitive motions, or trauma. Basically, the tendons of the rotator cuff become irritated which can cause pain and/or weakness of the shoulder. Rotator cuff tears are a more serious condition. Partial-thickness tears of the rotator cuff muscles are graded on the severity of the tear (grade I through grade III). A full thickness tear is just as it sounds – the muscle is completely torn and detached.

A common symptom of rotator cuff injury is shoulder pain at night, especially when lying down to sleep. Many rotator cuff injuries are often caused by the overuse of an overhand motion, such as throwing a baseball or freestyle swimming. This injury is not only limited to athletes, and can be developed with seemingly insignificant motions that damage the tendons over time.

So how does a chiropractor in Fort Collins fit into your shoulder pain picture? For one, a sports chiropractor can properly diagnose your shoulder injury. Depending on the severity of the injury, some conservative care can be utilized to facilitate healing and strengthening of the damaged rotator cuff. Some physiotherapy modalities, such as the cold laser, aim to help speed up the recovery process. However, in order to prevent this post from getting to long, I will not go into detail how these modalities function.

A sports chiropractor does excellent work when looking not only at the shoulder but as a part of a movement pattern of the body. The rotator cuff muscles are only a small part of what’s known as the upper extremity kinetic chain. From a physics standpoint, whenever you move your shoulder, there is an energy transfer that travels from your feet, up your legs, through your core, up your back, across your scapula and first rib, into the shoulder, and down your arm. However, the kinetic chain should be a topic discussed completely on its own.

Dr. Mathew Ullom, a sports chiropractor in Fort Collins, is well qualified to examine and treat your rotator cuff injury. Conservative management of rotator cuff tendonitis and/or tears has been shown to be successful in eliminating shoulder pain, strengthening the involved structures, and returning athletes and others to normal activity. Depending on the severity of your tear and activity status (i.e. level of competition), you may be referred for a surgical consultation. However, surgery should not be your first option. It may be possible to heal your injury before a surgical intervention is required.

So if you are looking for a solution to your shoulder pain in Fort Collins, pick up the phone and call 970.491.9191 to have your shoulder evaluated today!

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