swimmer doing overhead strokeInjuries to any of the muscles making up your rotator cuff are common in those who play sports, especially those that require a great deal of overhead motion like tennis or swimming. These activities are summer favorites for athletes all over the world - but is shoulder pain getting in your way? And how do you know if you’ve simply pulled a muscle, or if it’s something as serious as a rotator cuff tear?

The team at Advanced Spinal Care wants to empower our patients with the knowledge to seek treatment for injuries as soon as possible and get back to the summer activities they love. Here are three essential questions to ask yourself if you think you may be living with a rotator cuff injury:

How Did You Hurt Your Shoulder? 

Whether it’s a result of outside trauma or wear and tear over time, the manner in which you hurt your shoulder can be the first clue as to whether or not you’ve sustained a rotator cuff injury. Some of the most common causes of rotator cuff injuries include:

  • Repeated overhead arm motions (swimming strokes, pitching in baseball)
  • Taking a direct hit to your shoulder
  • Falling directly on your arm while it’s in an outstretched position
  • Chronic degenerative wear and tear on the tendons

If your shoulder pain can be traced back to any of these incidents, you likely have torn or injured your rotator cuff and should see a specialist for confirmation.

Are You Feeling the Symptoms?

So the way you injured your shoulder is consistent with a rotator cuff injury. What about your symptoms? Severe shoulder pain can be easily mistaken for other conditions, such as tendinitis (which is associated with rotator cuff tears) or cervical radiculopathy. The following symptoms indicate an injured or torn rotator cuff as opposed to these other causes of pain:

  • Your pain is worse at night
  • Your pain is worse after performing physical activity
  • You find it painful to move your shoulder
  • You find it difficult to move your shoulder to its full range
  • You’re experiencing muscle weakness in your shoulder
  • You have difficulty reaching behind your back

Because pain can worsen at night, a rotator cuff injury may also affect your ability to sleep, especially if you roll onto the injured shoulder by accident. Additionally, if you’ve been avoiding certain activities because you anticipate being in pain, you may have been living with a rotator cuff tear for longer than you realize. 

Are You At Risk?

Finally, it’s important to understand your risk factors to determine whether or not you’ve injured your rotator cuff. As previously discussed, sports like tennis, swimming and baseball pose an exceptional risk of rotator cuff injury due to frequent overhead motions in the arms. You’re also at a higher risk if your day job requires a great deal of heavy lifting, you’re older than age 40, or you’ve previously been inactive and your shoulders were weakened before you tried to use them. 

If you are living with any of these risk factors, be sure to practice preventative measures on a regular basis, including shoulder exercises designed to strengthen the rotator cuff muscles and protect you from tears. Should you sustain a rotator cuff injury, the experts at Advanced Spinal Care will try conservative treatments to decrease pain, reduce inflammation and strengthen the rotator cuff before attempting surgery.

If you’re ready to treat your rotator cuff injury and get back to the summer sports you love, Advanced Spinal Care & Rehabilitation can help. Request an appointment with us today for a consultation at our office in Coshocton, Ohio.