Chances are if you are at all familiar with your rotator cuff it is because you have injured it at some stage. Unfortunately this group of four small muscles that support the shoulder joint can be quite vulnerable to injury in certain circumstances. Sudden stresses and strains that occur in some sports such baseball and martial arts can be very stressful to the rotator cuff and so can sloppy form or poor bio-mechanics while weight training. Even excessive repetition of certain movements in regular daily activity can exact their toll on the rotator cuff.
A rotator cuff injury is not pleasant and can be quite debilitating. If you?ve ever injured your rotator cuff you will have realized how much you took these muscles for granted prior to the injury. An injured rotator cuff can restrict your shoulder and arm movement (especially overhead movement) and can be very painful if you?re used to sleeping on your side. The injury can be very persistent, taking a long time to heal, and in extreme cases may even require surgery. That?s the bad news.
The good news is that there are steps you can take to minimize your chances of having to deal with this unpleasant injury. Here are three of them:
1. Keep your rotator cuff muscles healthy (i.e. strong and supple).
2. Always warm up properly before vigorous exercise.
3. Avoid or minimize activities and movements with a high risk of injury to the rotator cuff.
Let?s briefly look at them one at a time.
You can keep your rotator cuff muscles strong and supple in the same way you can any muscle group – by exercising and stretching the muscles regularly. There are a number of exercises and stretches that effectively target or isolate the muscles of the rotator cuff but an overall balanced routine should be sufficient unless you are recovering from an injury or participate in activities that are ?high risk? with regards to rotator cuff injury.
Always warming up properly before exercise is a rule we all know but it is also a rule many choose to ignore. Ignore this rule at your peril. When you warm up your body before exercise you are increasing blood flow to the muscles and preparing them for more strenuous work. You should do an overall warm up and if a particular part of the body will be worked especially vigorously then do a specific warm up for that area as well. Warming up is a vital factor in injury prevention. When the body and muscles are adequately warmed up you will not only perform better but you will reduce the risk of injury.
Avoiding or minimizing activities and movements with a high risk of injury to the rotator cuff may be easier said than done for some. Athletes in sports such as baseball need to pay special attention to the above two ways since their sport inherently places a lot of stress on the muscles of the cuff due to the amount of throwing involved. For the rest of us it is a little easier to avoid or minimize activities that place the shoulder in a vulnerable or painful position.
In every day activity try and keep your movements within the body?s natural range of motion. If an activity or movement makes your shoulder feel uncomfortable or slightly strained then don?t do it ? chances are you are putting the joint and muscles at risk.
If you follow these three tips then you should be able to avoid injuring your rotator cuff and at the same time improve your overall health and wellbeing.