One of my coworkers also complains of an old football / rotator cuff injury. His came from being hit in the shoulder or hitting others with his shoulder.
Typically though, rotator cuff pain is due to an inflammation of the tendons that make up the rotator cuff. An inflammation of a tendon is called tendonitis and sometimes tendinitis.
Tendons are a special kind of tissue that connects muscles to bones.
Often the inflammation is caused by repetitive over-the-shoulder movements such as baseball pitching, swimming, throwing a football or even playing tennis.
Shoulder injuries are fairly common because the shoulder is the least stable joint in the body. One reason for this is that the ball part of the shoulder joint is larger than the socket that holds it.
The stability of the joint is very dependant on the muscles, tendons and ligaments that hold it together.
Tiny bone spurs can form and over time, they can either irritate or even sever the tendons that hold the muscles to the bone. In this case, surgery will be required for repair.
Sometimes the surgery can be done arthroscopically. (with tiny incisions and tiny instruments to do the repair.) An arthroscope is a very small camera that is inserted into the incision so the doctor can see what is going on.
Often times they can insert tiny tools through the same incision to make ‘repairs’.
If you have chronic shoulder pain and have been very physically active over a period of time, you may want to have an MRI done to see if a tendon tear, cut or break is involved.
Bottom line is that you ought to see a doctor to rule out something more serious than mere ‘tendonitis’. What is actually causing the pain is a crucial question that should be answered.
Baring something serious there are other actions you can take to counter your rotator cuff pain.
For example, physical therapy has been quite useful in dealing with rotator cuff pain.
One happy customer of a book written by a Physical Therapist about relieving pain from rotator cuff injuries [AFF] had this to say.
“I have also noticed a significant decrease in the pain I have in my left shoulder and it is almost non-existent today…. This program provided quick relief with easy to follow exercises…”
Before considering any physical therapy for a shoulder problem. You should check with your doctor to rule out the any other, more serious problems than tendon inflammation or bursitis – inflammation of the bursa (or cushioning structures) in the shoulder.
Here is a nifty free document (36 pages ) that will tell you more about different kinds of shoulder problems.
Another important thing to note is that if your problem is acute (meaning it just happened) you are not ready for PT (physical therapy). Instead, you may want to focus on reducing the swelling and inflammation through ice and elevating the area.
Typically, at the acute stage (recent injury) you’ll want to avoid heat or any other kind of stimulation to the shoulder. Just ice it and rest it for at least 4 days. Avoid anything that could aggravate the condition during that time.
After that and under professional supervision, you can start to apply heat and other modalities ( such as electric stim, massage, ultrasound). When the professional deems appropriate, physical therapy can be utilized.
When you reach that stage, the PT (physical therapy) is for long term relief and strengthening of the joint.
The four muscles with accompanying tendons that make up the rotator cuff are :
4. teres minor
To Recap, if you are having a problem with your rotator cuff, contact a physician first. He has access to the diagnostic tools that could rule out any major problems.