Health Blog

Recovering From Rotator Cuff Injuries

Rotator Cuff Injuries

For active people with rotator cuff injuries, the most commonly asked question is whether or not the injury will heal without need for surgery. In 2012 the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons revealed studies reporting that surgical repair fails in about 57% of rotator cuff cases. Non-surgical treatment of rotator cuff injury succeeds in about 50% of cases. It seems, then, that opting first for a non-invasive method has just as much potential for success as surgery.

Anatomy Of An Injury

Rotator cuff injury is common because the four major muscles involved in rotating the arm in the shoulder socket are used frequently every day. Each time a person moves their arm they are using their rotator cuff. The “cuff” is created by muscles surrounding the shoulder blade, working together to form a cuff of tendons that cover the top portion of the arm bone as it enters into the shoulder socket. The cuff serves to keep the ball of the arm bone properly positioned within the socket.

Lifting is the most common action that will become painful with a rotator cuff injury. You may feel pain as muscle tissue of the rotator cuff is pinched between the bones of the ball and socket joint. This condition may sometimes be commonly called bursitis. Rotator cuff pain becomes more likely in active adults as they age due to the normal effects of wear and tear or repetitive movement. Just as a rope will fray if constantly rubbing against a sharp edge, the tendons of the cuff will also eventually wear and possibly tear. Symptoms are usually noticeable as:

  • Sharp pain down the side of the arm when reaching upward or behind.
  • Throbbing pain at night during sleep.
  • Pattern of pain across the shoulder and down the arm.

Non-Surgical Options

Physical therapy may be the first recommendation by a physician. In addition to a method of treatment, there are also many things an individual can do outside of a physical therapy environment to aid in recovery.

Rest: Rest the rotator cuff by limiting range of motion, especially overhead reaching.

Support: Compression wear is available with devices designed to specifically support the shoulder and rotator cuff. Often called a sling or sleeve, many have designs that integrate heat and ice therapies that further help to reduce inflammation and pain as well as accelerate healing.

OTC Medication: Non-prescription drugs like ibuprofen or naproxen can help reduce swelling and manage pain.

Exercise: It is important to continue to strengthen the affected shoulder and maintain flexibility. However, exercises and stretches should be adapted so as not to further exacerbate an injured rotator cuff that is in recovery.

Flexibility Exercises

Crossover Reach Stretch

  1. Standing or sitting, raise affected arm chest high and reach across the chest.
  2. Using the opposite hand, apply gentle pressure just below the elbow and hold for about 30 seconds.
  3. Switch arms and repeat.

Back Hand Clasp Stretch

  1. Clasp both hands behind you with arms lowered.
  2. Slowly raise clasped hands as long is it does not cause pain. Hold for 30 seconds.
  3. Release hands and relax for 10 seconds then repeat stretch.

Strengthening Exercises

When using weights in exercises to improve strength, select a weight that will not cause pain during use.

Pendulum Swings

  1. Using a table for support, lean over with one forearm resting on the table top, back parallel to the floor, and dumbbell in the other hand hanging straight down.
  2. Gently swing dumbbell back and forth for 30 seconds.
  3. Switch arms and repeat.

Therapy Goals

Treatment approaches for rotator cuff injuries should have in mind multiple goals:

  • Healing the injury.
  • Managing pain.
  • Maintaining range of motion.

Moderate immobilization with compression wear and limiting movement will help accelerate healing of the affected muscles. Proper use of ice, heat and over-the-counter medications can give a person pain management options within their control. Commitment to a regular stretching and exercise program will help to prevent atrophy of the affected muscle while waiting for the injury to heal.

A person does not have to be a professional athlete to experience a painful rotator cuff injury. Such an injury can occur just through the normal effects of aging and the everyday activities a person engages in. Pain from rotator cuff injuries can stay with a person for years. It is also very common to have a repeat performance of injury after a prior injury has healed. That is why once the problem arises it is important for any sufferer of rotator cuff injury to modify their lifestyle to include habits and methods that are pro-active in maintaining rotator cuff health. Don’t perform the recommended flexibility and strengthening exercises only after an injury occurs, make them a regular part of your daily health regimen.

Also keep in mind that healing properly from a rotator cuff injury can take a very long time. Be patient and stay committed to your physical therapist‘s advice on how to care for your injury. For more information regarding rotator cuff health and injury recovery, consult medical experts who are committed to non-surgical approaches first.


FREE Rotator Cuff Health Check-Up Event

Monday and Tuesday October 17 and 18, 2016

In celebration of National Physical Therapy Month and Breast Cancer Awareness Month (most breast cancer patients and survivors suffer from shoulder pain) in October, Orthopedic and Balance Therapy Specialists will host a FREE Rotator Cuff Health Check-Up Event on the following dates and locations:

  • Monday October 17, 2016 at our Valparaiso office (3125 Calumet Ave., Suite 8)
  • Tuesday October 18, 2016 at our Crown Point office (11055 Broadway, Suite B)

During the event, each attendee will receive:

  1. One on one FREE consultation time with one of our Rotator Cuff Specialist physical therapists.
  2. You will discover tips on how to:
  • Know which rotator cuff muscle is affected and the grade of the tear
  • Correct the cause of your pain and speed up the healing process
  • Prevent your shoulder from getting worse

We have 24 FREE consultation spots available for each location. To hold your spot, please call       219-202-2500 in Valparaiso, or 219-203-3100 in Crown Point.



Arlan Alburo

Orthopedic and Balance Therapy Specialists

PS-Call 219-202-2500 in Valpo or 219-203-3100 in Crown Point to hold your spot for the FREE Rotator Cuff Health Check-Up Event on October 17 and 18 in celebration of National Physical Therapy Month and Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

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Our Reviews
Elaine Krause
Elaine Krause
18:18 11 Dec 19
I attended several of the Saturday workshops at OBTS to increase my knowledge as a yoga instructor. Noel’s informative presentations were tailored to meet the needs of those individuals who were present. I took advantage of the free assessment offered to the attendees, and chose to try PT to resolve a minor issue. The therapists did an excellent job correcting the problem quickly. Great team of professionals! Thank you!
Timothy Knopf
Timothy Knopf
20:18 30 Oct 19
Best therapy place around. I would recommend this place to everyone. They have the best group of therapists around.
Mitchell Udowitz
Mitchell Udowitz
20:43 27 Oct 19
I have been to two Physical Therapy places prior to finding Orthopedic & Balance Therapy in Valparaiso. While they were ok they don’t hold a candle to Orthopedic & Balance Therapy. OBT team works as one in harmony and they stay on top of the latest technology for their patients. Their team is so very knowledgeable and very friendly plus they generally care about what they are doing and it shows. They are concerned about the whole person not just the injury they need to be treated for.
Barbara Serynek
Barbara Serynek
18:52 03 Oct 19
The entire staff has been very pleasant, professional and accommodating. Both Kristen and Joe have given me the best massages. Kate and Kollin made sure that I was doing my excercises and helped to move things along. Feeling better every visit. I'm so glad that I chose Orthopedic & Balance.
Heidi Richardson
Heidi Richardson
17:00 19 Sep 19
I went to physical therapy not expecting it to do very much to help because that’s the way I approach everything with low expectations. Noel and his team have made my neck feel so much better that it puts me in a more positive mood each day and I actually feel more positive and more productive on a day-to-day basis..
Christine O'Donnell
Christine O'Donnell
16:26 14 Aug 19
I could barely walk into OBTS six weeks ago. I had very bad lower back and hip pain. The progress has been life changing for me. I always walk out of there with little or no pain. The staff, Laura, Dr Diane, Angie and, of course, Peggy, have taught me so much to keep my pain at bay. I highly recommend this team.
Nancy Guenther
Nancy Guenther
15:28 12 Jul 19
Absolutely awesome! My walking has improved 110%. And my pain level is zero. I highly recommend them. will be amazed how much better you feel.
Tracie Baxter
Tracie Baxter
20:24 03 Jul 19
This was the only place that could help with my TMJ. If you’re suffering from TMJ go see Noel! He really understands the condition. I no long have to deal with constant pain! The whole staff at this office is amazing and very welcoming.
Cindy Standiford
Cindy Standiford
21:33 28 Jun 19
The whole team is great!! I’m getting great care! I recommend Orthopedic & Balance for any issues you might have.
Joseph Mulholland
Joseph Mulholland
19:53 09 May 19
Amazing staff and amazing care. I came in barely able to stand up straight due to a back injury. After 6 weeks, I feel like brand new. Everyone was extremely helpful and easy to work with. Highly recommended!
Trool u
Trool u
19:44 24 Apr 19
I am a PTA student that was required 16 hours of observation time. I had the pleasure of completing my hours at this Valpo location. The staff is incredibly friendly. They were quick to make me feel at home. In a way I was sad to leave, but happy to continue on. I hope to eventually work in this field with a work family this caring and knowledgeable about their profession.
sharon Kramer
sharon Kramer
16:23 18 Apr 19
My experience has been a very enjoyable and rewarding experience in getting me to feeling better. The staff does a remarkable job and are fully qualified in their respective areas. The staff made it fun coming here and they were very caring and helpful with their clients!!
Tim Nash
Tim Nash
15:32 27 Aug 18
My first experience with OBTS was very positive. During the course of my 13 therapy sessions I worked with many different therapists and all of them were professional and competent. They were able to help me effectively control my pain without medication using their therapy program. Unfortunately, they could not get my physical condition back to the same ability as before. However, this is due to the fact that it was later determined by my doctors that I required surgery. I plan on returning to OBTS for my post-op physical therapy and have already scheduled my evaluation appointment. Scheduling seems to be a challenge sometimes but that's probably an indication of their patient's satisfaction and good reviews. Thank you OBTS!
Arlene Gross
Arlene Gross
15:58 22 Jun 18
Everyone that worked with me was helpful. I enjoyed watching the staff interact as they worked as they laughed and smiled making me feel that it was fun to exercise. My knee pain is less and I look forward to having the same results with my back.
Jose Ico
Jose Ico
12:43 27 Apr 18
My wife and I have been coming here for a year. They have wonderful customer service and the treatments were great. I could say that since coming here for treatments, I am now able to walk properly and sleep well at nights. They help you in the best way possible. The people here are great and we definitely recommend it to everyone!
Paul Grant
Paul Grant
21:51 03 Apr 18
I have read lots of reviews that say "the entire staff of ..." is great, and you know that it is BS.. .. Butt at OBTS that statement is true. The person answering the phone, appointment setting they work around my schedule. It is truly a team concept. Everyone that has work with/on me keeps me focus on getting healthy to play golf.... Even those employees that haven't work with/on me are upbeat, positive and encouraging both their patients and me..... follow up phone calls, positive, hand written notes of encouragement, reminding me to do my homework so I can play golf this year. Great Employees, Great Business!.
Diane Burns
Diane Burns
02:30 16 Mar 18
I’ve had an incredible experience here at OBTS. In just two and half weeks I’ve seen and felt remarkable results. My hip mobility has improved by 30%. I credit the excellent physical therapists and the deep tissue laser therapy for my gains. I’ve gone from walking with a limp and pain everyday to walking normally and know that I’ll be back to running in the future. Every single person is warm and friendly here. Great place!
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