As one of the most complex joints in your body, your shoulder is made up of multiple bones, ligaments, muscles, tendons—and those are just some of the many parts. This is what makes your shoulder so mobile, but it’s also what makes your shoulder so susceptible to injury. In fact, shoulders are the most commonly injured joints of the body, so step aside knees and hips—hello rotator cuffs.
It isn’t just major impact or sports injuries that can cause damage to your rotator cuff, though. Oftentimes, it’s the culmination of repetitive wear and tear that’s to blame. Anything that involves repetitive lifting or overhead activities can contribute to rotator cuff pain or injury.
Because the symptoms of rotator cuff injuries are often so mild, they’re easy to overlook or write-off as normal aches and pains. However, if left untreated, this type of injury will only worsen leading to more severe pain and making recovery a lengthier process.
Don’t shrug off shoulder pain. According to Saadiq El-Amin, MD, orthopedic surgeon and medical director of GMC’s Concussion Institute, you should watch for these common signs:
You have trouble sleeping. Everything from stress and sleep apnea to allergies and restless leg syndrome can contribute to a restless night's sleep. Rotator cuff injuries are no different. Both rotator cuff tendonitis and tears are known to cause pain while at rest, which is especially noticeable at night when you’re trying to sleep.
You can’t brush your hair. Well, it isn’t just brushing your hair that becomes difficult with a rotator cuff injury. Anything that involves lifting or lowering your arm, like getting dressed or grabbing something off the top shelf becomes painful.
You feel weak. While you’d think a rotator cuff injury would be strictly painful, it’s possible that you may not feel any pain at all. Instead, you may notice weakness throughout your arm.
You hear a crackling sound. When your shoulder is healthy, there are tendons and muscles that provide support and stability for the joint. However, when you have a rotator cuff injury that impacts the tendons and muscles, the result is crepitus, or a grating sound or sensation that you hear when bone and cartilage rub together.
OTC medication stops working. Over-the-counter pain medication is often the first line of defense against aches and pains, but when it comes to rotator cuff injuries; it quickly loses its effectiveness. If you can no longer find relief when you reach for aspirin or ibuprofen, it may be more than just a sore shoulder.
R-I-C-E is nice, but not always.
One of the best places to start when treating any type of joint pain is with resting, icing, compressing and elevating, also known as RICE. But for rotator cuff injuries in particular, it’s most important to focus on the first two steps—rest and ice. Together, they will help to reduce swelling and will protect the injured area by preventing further injury.
However, to truly ensure the safest, most effective healing possible, you need the guidance and care of a sports medicine expert. With more physicians fellowship-trained in Sports Medicine than any other hospital system in Georgia, you can trust the experienced teamat GMC with any of your sports injuries, shoulders (and rotator cuffs) included.