It's that time of year again, Baseball season! And the start of the of America's favorite past time brings more than peanuts and Cracker Jacks. For many of us, it brings long work outs to get back in game shape, drills to increase your skill level and throwing until you just can't throw anymore. Yes folks, the love of the game can be rewarding but it may also come with a heavy price. Injuries, especially rotator cuff injuries, increase this time of year due to the amount of throwing involved with the game of baseball. While many of the more competetive leagues play year around, there are still many young boys and girls in little leagues and young men and women in high school who have only begun to play their first games since last year. For those of you who are just getting back into shape, you need to take a step back and realize the increased potential for injuries you are exposing yourself to and take the necessary precautions to prevent them.
Learn more on how to prevent major shoulder injuries by visiting our Prevention page
Injuries to the rotator cuff are common because of our dependence on the shoulder for the many activities we participate in. These injuries can be frustrating because of the limited movement it causes due to the pain in the shoulder. Here are a few things you need to know about rotator cuff injuries.
First, you should know that shoulder pain is extremely common and is caused by many things. Many baseball pitchers develop shoulder pain from throwing the ball but injuries can be caused anytime you overuse your shoulders. Painters, for example, have a high rate of rotator cuff injuries which can be explained by the constant up and down movement required in the job. Since the pain can cause significant problems for the individual, you must identify the cause of the problem so you will be able to get proper treatment.
The obvious and most common symptom of a rotator cuff injury is the pain it causes. Typically, the pain comes from the top of the shoulder and arm but in some cases, the pain is said to come down the outside of the arm all the way to the elbow. Weakness is also very common for people with rotator cuff injuries and the lack of ones ability to lift their arm. This will cause you to have a difficult time doing basic activities like getting dressed or reaching for something overhead.
Although it is a painful injury, most cases of rotator cuff tears can be treated without surgery. Of course, in extreme cases, the damage to the tendons may be bad enough to require surgical repair but those cases are a small minority of people requiring treatment. Most common treatments are physical therapy, anti-inflammatory pain medication and cortisone injections. Physical therapy will help strengthen the muscles around the injured tendon and help compensate for it. Anti-inflammatory pain medications and cortisone injections will help reduce inflammation and reduce the pain to the injured area.
As with any injury that lasts more than three days, you should consult your doctor for treatment. There are several surgical options for rotator cuff tears that will be dependent on the exact type of injury suffered, the surgeons preference, and the type of activities you wish to do after recovery. Before undergoing surgery, discuss other possible options for treatment. If you do not feel surgery is necessary, it would be wise to get a second opinion.
Does Your Shoulder Pain Keep You Awake At Night?
I remember it like it was yesterday,
that nagging sharp shoulder pain that just wouldn’t go away, unless I was
laying on my right side that is. It appeared suddenly and without warning,
something called Frozen Shoulder. I don’t even remember how many sleepless
nights I had because of my shoulder pain but I can tell you it was far too many.
I don’t even remember why I didn’t go to the doctor, the pain was certainly
enough to warrant an MDs opinion. I guess Im one of those guys who likes to
think he’s invincible or something. Knowing now what I didn’t know then, I can
say without a shadow of a doubt, I was an idiot. If you have shoulder pain that
is keeping you awake at night, see a doctor and find out what it is.
I think my fear was that my father and my older brother both had experienced similar problems with their shoulders and I just thought I was just going to be next in line for shoulder surgery. I remember seeing my father in his sixties with his arm in a sling and not even being able to move his arm for fear it would tear the repairs that had been made and he would have to go back and have it redone. There was no way I was even considering going through that! He couldn’t drive, he couldn’t brush his own hair, he even had a difficult time in the restroom, if you know what I mean…sorry Dad!
Not only that but I had also previously suffered a severe rotator cuff injury on my right arm that caused my arm to fall out of socket an inch or more when I held weight of more than 5 pounds. Months of intense physical therapy under strict doctor’s supervision allowed me to avoid surgery and eventually got me back on the baseball field the following season. Yes, that’s why I was injured in the first place but I just couldn’t give it up
But, even having gone through a similar experience myself, I knew this time was different. With my rotator cuff injury I only had pain when I tried to lift weight, throw a ball or when I twisted my arm in a certain position. With this shoulder injury I was starting to lose my range of motion. It got so bad that some days I was having a hard time raising my arm up to wash my hair in the shower. It went on far too long and I was beginning to worry I had waited too long to seek help.
Then one day I woke up and decided that I wasn’t going to take it anymore. I did some research online and found that not all shoulder injuries are the same. Wait, I knew that! I had already been through that. Then I read that many shoulder injuries can be rehabilitated without surgery. I knew that too! What a dummy, I thought. So I woke up that next day with a new outlook on my shoulder problem. I was determined not to let it get to me anymore and I sure as heck wasn’t going to let it beat me. I began an easy exercise regimen that I had found online and started my road to recovery.
As each day passed, I could feel the range of motion coming back. After one month, there was such a dramatic difference I was even able to start sleeping on my left side again. As more time passed the nagging pain like someone was sticking an ice pick in the top of my shoulder was finally gone and so were my fears of having to go under the knife. I had won the battle of the shoulder injury!
Now, although there is a happy ending to my story, I don’t want you to think that I cured myself or that Im telling you that you can either. Admittedly, I was foolish for not going to the doctor to have my shoulder checked. Also keep in mind that I had already been through months of intense physical therapy on my other shoulder years before, so I knew many of the exercises that I could do to strengthen the shoulder without causing further damage. Yes, I was lucky and today I am very grateful for not having to have gone through a long and painful shoulder surgery like my father or brother did. But not everyone is as lucky as I was, twice. If you have pain in your shoulder, especially pain that keeps you awake at night, go see your doctor and find out what it is. Don’t let the fear of surgery keep you from getting help like I did. Chances are that you wont need to have surgery and you’ll be able to find alternative ways of getting that shoulder back to normal like I did.
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Rotator Cuff Injuries and Treatment
The shoulder is a joint that is made up of three main bones held together by a group of muscles, tendons and ligaments. The first of the bones is the upper bone of the arm called the Humerus and the other two are the Clavicle or Collarbone and the Scapula, better known as the shoulder blade. The Rotator Cuff is a group of tendons and muscles in the shoulder that keeps the Humerus in the shoulder socket. The range of motion, the lifting and the twisting the shoulder allows us to have is only possible because of the Rotator Cuff. But is is also because of the range of motion it allows that injuries or disorders can occur. This is especially true in athletes or people who work in physically demanding jobs but has been known to happen by lifting as little as a suitcase.
Rotator Cuff injuries occur for various reasons. As we get older, normal wear and tear begins to take its toll and thinning or fraying of the tendons can occur along with reduced blood supply. Overuse of the shoulder is another common reason for Rotator Cuff injuries. It is a very common injury for people who play baseball due to the strain that is placed on the shoulder to throw the ball but is not limited to throwing related sports. Swimming and tennis are also known for Rotator Cuff related disorders. Whether by normal wear and tear or overuse, the wear on the area can cause the tendon to begin to rub on the bone. This is called an impingement. The impingement irritates the tendon causing it to bleed and become inflamed. Over time, the healthy tissue once inside the Rotator Cuff is replaced by scar tissue and the area becomes stiff and much more susceptible to injury.
If you feel you have a shoulder injury, it is strongly recommended you seek treatment as soon as possible. Treatments may vary from using ice or heat to having it surgically repaired and can only be determined by a doctor. If it is determined by your doctor that surgery is not necessary, be sure to review all treatments he feels will be best to relieve pain and gain strength without causing further damage. Whatever the treatment, it is strongly recommended you rest the shoulder and stop any activity that causes you pain. You may also take anti-inflamitory drugs such as Advil or Aleve to reduce swelling and relieve pain. Review an exercise program with your doctor when the time is right to begin strengthening the shoulder and help prevent injuries in the future.
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Before you begin any type of treatment, a doctor's approval is recommended.