PRO Club Pulse Newsletter – Rotator Cuff, Preserve Your Asset!

For many of us, enjoying a healthy, active lifestyle is not only fun, but also contributes to having a joyful and positive outlook,remaining alert and focused at work, and sleeping well. From tennis and basketball to softball and kayaking, our chosen pursuits often involve shoulder-dominant activities.  So when shoulder injuries cause pain, dysfunction, and nighttime aching, we feel the impact.The rotator cuff is a key component of the shoulder and is not infrequently the source of pain and disability. Four tendons blend together in a sheet and form the rotator cuff, or hood, over the ball of the shoulder. This “cuff” helps to stabilize the shoulder and rotate the arm. With repetitive or heavy use of the shoulder, the rotator cuff may become inflamed (aka tendonitis), worn, or torn and detached from the upper arm bone. As with any asset, the health of your rotator cuff can either be optimized by regular attention and routine maintenance, or be abused and neglected. Unfortunately, replacement parts (with the original specs) rarely exist for the body! The cuff has a very limited capacity to heal itself – all the more reason for regular maintenance. Good flexibility is one of the components of a healthy shoulder. As shoulder stiffness worsens, there’s a greater chance for injury to the rotator cuff from strain and wear. Routine stretching of the shoulder joint can maintain optimal flexibility. While stretching prior to exercise is beneficial, it’s even more important to spend 10 minutes to stretch your shoulder after exercise. It is then that your joints are most prone to cool down in a state of limited motion. As a consequence, you may find that your shoulder is somewhat more difficult to “stretch out” the next time you exercise. Good rotator cuff strength is also essential. It helps balance the larger power muscles and stabilize the shoulder. With better strength and endurance, the rotator cuff isn’t required to work as hard and is less subject to overstress. Regular strength and conditioning exercises for the rotator cuff muscles will pay handsome dividends. Strength exercises that mimic the demands of your sport or activity are even better. An appropriate warm-up period will also diminish stress on your shoulder. Soft tissues are easier to stretch when warm. As tendons become more elastic and compliant, they’re less likely to be damaged by a rapid or large force. If you do experience pain and disability from an injury to your rotator cuff and conservative treatment fails, surgery might be the most effective option. Many new, minimally invasive surgical options to repair your damaged rotator cuff are now available, including repair or replacement. Despite these advances, the “original equipment” is still the best – your physical health is an asset worth preserving!