With summer coming to a close and waves on tap for days, most of us are a little guilty of an over ambitious return to water sports. While this means more business for physios, it doesn’t do your shoulders any favours.  Over the years treating patients complaining about shoulder pain we have noticed that most of you often neglected to work out their shoulders in the cooler winter months spent indoors. In particular the rotator cuff, an area of the shoulder we treat almost daily.

The term rotator cuff refers to a group of tendons and muscles that work to move and stabilise the shoulder joint.

But how do hurt your rotator cuff? 

Rotator cuff injuries can occur as a result of direct trauma or gradual wear and tear of your shoulder.

Rotator cuff injuries are often recognisable by a few key symptoms: 

•    Limited shoulder range of movement

•    Pain with different shoulder movements

•    Tenderness on palpation

•    Diffuse ache around the outside of the shoulder and upper arm

•    Weakness in your shoulder and arms

You may also experience: 

•    Waking in the night when rolling onto shoulder

•    Pain down the arm to the elbow

What can you do to help fix your rotator cuff? 

Your physiotherapist will take a detailed history through subjective questioning. They will then perform a few physical tests of your shoulder to help determine a diagnosis. Imaging will often be requested by your physiotherapist or GP to determine the extent of rotator cuff damage, or for a more specific diagnosis. More severe rotator cuff injuries will require referral to a surgeon or specialist, however less severe rotator cuff injuries often respond extremely well to physiotherapy.

After your assessment, you will be provided with exercises, specific to your injury. The goal of physiotherapy is to reduce your pain and increase function. Your therapist will equip you with the knowledge an exercise program to do so. Heat and pharmaceuticals can also play a role in symptom management of rotator cuff injuries.

What can you do to prevent rotator cuff injuries? 

Before you dust the cobwebs off your surfboard or give SUPing another go, make sure your shoulders are nice and strong. There are a few simple home exercises that your physio can teach you. Alternatively, you might like to try pilates classes with a qualified instructor to keep you injury free and in the water all day long.

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