Tandem Physical Therapy

3 Ways to Protect Your Rotator Cuff

“I’m having shoulder pain and don’t know what to do about it. My neighbor had rotator cuff surgery recently and had a really tough time with it. How do I prevent that from happening to me?”

I hear this type of story all the time. Shoulder pain is very common, especially in people aged 40 to 60. And because rotator cuff tears are the most common cause of shoulder pain, many of my patients are very interested in knowing what they can do to prevent having a painful rotator cuff surgery.

The good news is, if identified early and treated, there are many things that can help reduce the tension and stress placed on your rotator cuff.

Ready to get started? Here are my best 3 tips to protect your rotator cuff that you can start on today.

#1 Be Mindful of Your Posture

Many of us know how our posture can affect our neck and back. However, did you know that your posture also plays a key role in the way our shoulder functions?

Our posture and the way we hold our spine has effects on the shape of our ribs. This is important to note because our shoulder blade needs to glide across our ribs in order for us to reach overhead. If we are seated with our backs rounded and try to lift our arms up, we get a lot more pinching in our shoulder which can cause pain and injury to our rotator cuff.

This does not just apply to lifting. Patients with shoulder problems will often complain of shoulder pain after working at their desk and computer for long lengths of time. Our posture while we are seated at our desks affects the positioning of our shoulder and therefore has impacts on our rotator cuff.

Here are some quick tips to help reduce the stress on your rotator cuff while at work:

— Start with a good chair. This should be one that allows you to sit up right with good lumbar support.

— You should not have to be reaching for your keyboard. Bring the keyboard closer to you so that your upper arms are near your torso and your elbows are at 90 degrees. If you are having difficulty getting the right angle on this, your desk may be too high or too low. Try adjusting your chair to ensure optimal height.

#2 Be Aware of Your Body When You Lift

We tend to over use our arms when trying to reach and grab for things. Doing this often or with more weight can cause injury to our rotator cuff.

When lifting something from the floor or table, be sure to get as close to the object as possible before lifting. The closer the object is to your center of gravity, the less stress you will endure on your shoulders.

Another tip: Make sure objects are conveniently positioned before lifting. One of the most common ways I see people injure their rotator cuff is trying to lift something out of the back seat of your car, such as a purse or briefcase, while still sitting in the front seat. This angle puts a lot of extra stress on your shoulder and may contribute to a rotator cuff injury. My advice: When you are ready to get out of your car and gather your things, open the back door of the car and grab your things from there. Do not reach behind you and try to lift.

#3 Know When To Seek Help

The majority of patients we see in the clinic, who have undergone a rotator cuff surgery, usually had shoulder pain for quite some time prior to deciding to have surgery.

Many of these surgeries may have been prevented if they sought help sooner before too much damage was done.

We work with patients all the time on improving how their shoulder works and functions to decrease the stress on the rotator cuff muscles so they are less likely to sustain continued damage as the years go on.

If you are having shoulder pain, even if it is not all the time, it is worth calling us for a discovery visit. During this visit, you can meet with a physical therapist who will tell you if there is something that can be done to help protect your rotator cuff and relieve your shoulder pain. This visit is 100% free so you really have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

For more information regarding shoulder pain, check out this video:

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