Shoulder Injuries – Rotator Cuff Strain or Sprain

Rotator cuff strains or sprains is an injury to the group of muscles called the rotator cuff. These 4 muscles – Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus, Teres Minor and Subscapularis are key in controlling the mechanics of shoulder elevation – or lifting your arm, and are also responsible for the rotation – internal and external of the shoulder or glenohumeral joint. This is important to allow the joint the mobility necessary to do all the movements we need.

To be simple, the shoulder is a ball and socket joint, with the ball – or humerus – much larger than the socket. The most common analogy is imagining a golf ball on a tee, although dimension wise it isn’t that dramatic of a difference, but you get the drift. As the arm lifts over your head, the rotator cuff is responsible for rotatating the humerus, depressing the humeral head to clear the top of the shoulder, or the acromion. When that doesn’t happen, injuries such as  a strain (muscles) or a sprain (ligament) can occur.

This can leave the average person not being able to lift their arm overhead without significant pain – this is hallmark of Rotator cuff injuries. Since the human body is a pleaser and wants to do whatever the mind says to do, it usually finds a way to perform the actions that we need – which is where compensations can occur. The result? A muddled mess of pain in the shoulder that can radiate to the neck and head, mid back and even the lower back and hand.

Not fun at all. Consider all the things that you do with your hands – simple things like brushing your hair or putting on a jacket becomes a challenge. So you can see how lifting at the gym, throwing that ball or even driving for long periods can become a problem.

If you have shoulder pain when moving your arm, it is possible that you have a rotator cuff issue. This is not an exclusive diagnosis, so seeing a skilled physical therapist early on can give you the right diagnosis and allow you to return to life without missing time from your favourite sport, missing doing your favourite chores like laundry (ha!) or the trouble of putting on your jacket. So if you feel pain in your shoulder, check it out right away to make sure that other issues don’t come along for the ride.

For more info about shoulder pain and how to start helping yourself today, click on the button below to check out my Shoulder Pain Guide to get information and tips on how to stop your shoulder pain today!

Click Here to Request Your FREE Shoulder Pain Guide »


Danelle Dickson PT, DPT, OCS

Danelle Dickson PT, DPT, OCS

Physical Therapist at Performance Plus Physical Therapy
Danelle Dickson received her Bachelor’s Degree in Biology from Morgan State University in 2003, then her Doctorate Degree in Physical Therapy from the University of Delaware in 2007. After graduating, she earned her  Board Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist Certification in 2012. She is continually increasing her knowledge base with post graduate continuing education from manual based courses such as Institute of Physical Arts and St. Augustine courses. Additionally, she has also presented research at local (APTA) and international (IADMS) conferences on dancers, and has published her research with Journal of Dance Medicine and Science.

Danelle combines her 10+ year of clinical, research, and administrative experience  to produce a well rounded, patient driven experience at Performance Plus Physical Therapy. She currently works with patients with orthopedic, sports and Performing arts conditions, along with taking care of the local dance population, and mentoring local physical therapy students as a clinical instructor.
Danelle Dickson PT, DPT, OCS

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