Rotator cuff injuries are one of the most common sports-related injuries of all time, and one of the most common orthopedic injuries in general. In fact, injuries to these vital muscles and tendons that surround and support the shoulder joint bring nearly 2 million Americans to the doctor every single year. But how do you know if you’ve sustained a true rotator cuff injury, or if the pain you’re feeling in your shoulder now is temporary?
As an orthopedic sports medicine specialist, Dr. Michael Rytel wants his patients to understand the kinds of injuries his patients can potentially sustain on the field so that they know how and when to get the care they need, as quickly as possible. Here are a few vital questions to ask yourself if you suspect you may have injured your rotator cuff:
What Are My Rotator Cuff Injury Risk Factors?
If you’re wondering where to begin when thinking about whether or not your shoulder pain is the result of a rotator cuff injury, understanding the general risk factors is a great place to start. While they’re not common winter activities, certain sports can put you at an increased risk for rotator cuff injuries, such as tennis, swimming and baseball. If you’re playing these sports throughout the year, you’re subjecting your shoulder joint to frequent, repetitive overhead motions, which results in wear and tear that can ultimately lead to a compromised rotator cuff. In the wintertime, there’s also the added factor of muscle stiffness: if your rotator cuff has already taken a great deal of strain, stiff shoulder muscles due to cold weather are even more likely to be torn. Additionally, if you’re in a line of work that requires heavy lifting such as delivery or construction work, or you’re older than the age of 40, you may be at an increased risk of sustaining a rotator cuff injury.
What Are Common Symptoms of a Rotator Cuff Injury?
Next, it’s time to think about how your shoulder actually feels. What are your symptoms? Severe pain can indicate a condition symptomatic of a rotator cuff injury, such as rotator cuff tendinitis. Ask yourself some of the following questions as you prepare to speak to Dr. Rytel about your shoulder pain:
- Does moving your shoulder cause pain in any position?
- Does physical activity cause your shoulder pain to worsen?
- Can you reach behind your back using the affected shoulder?
- Has the range of motion in your affected shoulder been compromised?
- Do your shoulder muscles feel weaker than before?
- Are you actively avoiding your favorite sports and other activities because of your pain?
- Are you having difficulty sleeping at night due to your shoulder pain?
If the answer to any or all of these questions is yes, it’s very likely that you’ve injured your rotator cuff, and it’s time to seek treatment from an orthopedic sports medicine specialist like Dr. Rytel as soon as you possibly can.
When You Play, Do You Play Hard?
We previously discussed the types of sports and physical activities that can pose a particular risk for rotator cuff injury. If you’re a swimmer, tennis player, or any other athlete who uses your shoulders frequently to play your sport, the way you play may actually be increasing your risk even more. Think about anything that could have occurred during your latest games, and not just a single traumatic event -- is there anything that happens repeatedly when you play that could be contributing to wear and tear over time? Maybe you’ve fallen on your arm while it was outstretched, taken a direct hit to the shoulder, or increased the velocity of your overhead movement for more effective strokes or pitches. If any of these events sound plausible, be sure to present them to your doctor when you go for your appointment.
Are You Ready for a Professional Diagnosis?
At the end of the day, if your pain is severe, persistent, and obstructive to you enjoying the physical activities you love, it’s time to schedule a visit with the doctor. Only an orthopedic sports medicine specialist can truly provide the accurate diagnosis you need to determine whether or not you’ve sustained a rotator cuff injury and begin treatment. If all of the previously discussed symptoms sound familiar to you, don’t wait to schedule your appointment -- damage to the tissues of the rotator cuff will only worsen the longer it’s left untreated!
Dr. Michael Rytel is committed to providing non-invasive, patient-focused treatment designed to restore you to full functionality and get you back in the pool or on the field as quickly as possible. If a rotator cuff injury has you sidelined, don’t wait for the relief you deserve: schedule an appointment online using our simple form today.