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Just Say No to Rotator Cuff Tears; Keeping Active Shoulders Healthy

 Fall is here, and with it comes great weather, which has many Triangle-area residents are out enjoying all sorts of physical activity, from golf and tennis to gardening and fishing. While these activities promote health, relaxation and all around fun, many people find themselves plagued with recurrent pain and soreness around their shoulder.  What could be causing this pain, you may ask? Rotator cuff tendons. rotator-cuff-tear-matthew-boes

Often thought of as an issue that only affects baseball pitchers, rotator cuff problems are actually far more common in active adults.  Certain physical activities, such as the ones mentioned above, can place excessive stress on the rotator cuff tendons. These activities often involve repetitive overhead motions, sudden deceleration of the arm, or loading the shoulder with resistance in extreme positions, such as behind the back.  This can lead to tendonitis, or painful inflammation and swelling of the tendons, as well as more serious problems like an actual tendon tear.  Understanding what can cause rotator cuff disorders and what can be done to prevent them may help you avoid prolonged periods of discomfort and the need to take a break from your regular activities or exercise routines.

Following are some suggestions to help keep your rotator cuff tendons in check and avoid problems throughout the dog days of summer:

  • Listen to your body.  High-level baseball pitchers are taught to never ignore pain in their shoulders.  You should do the same.  If you experience pain while engaging in an activity or into the next day, take a break for several days and do something less stressful on the shoulder.  This may involve modifying your activities on a long-term basis.
  • Avoid activities that force you to place the shoulder in extreme positions, particularly if any weight or resistance is involved.  This includes doing things like overhead presses behind the neck, pushups where you touch the floor with your chest, and certain extreme yoga positions.  The twisting force on the tendon fibers can cause small tears, which may ultimately progress to larger tears with repetitive activity.

Incorporate regular low resistance / high repetition rotator cuff exercises into your regular exercise routine.  Gentle and focused strengthening of the rotator cuff can go a long way to preventing injury.  Programs that you can do at home can be found on the Internet, or consider investing in a few visits with a physical therapist who can teach you safe and proper.

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