Dr. Osric King, Sports Medicine Physician, explains what might put you at risk and how to avoid rotator cuff injuries. The rotator cuff functions to move the shoulder and lift the arm. It is made up of four muscles and tendons that form a covering around the head of the humerus- upper arm bone- and top of the shoulder. “Rotator cuff injuries are common in individuals who are active, but also in people who have weak shoulder muscles and perform repetitive motions with their shoulders,” says Dr. King.
1. Avoid doing activities that involve keeping your arms above your shoulders for extended periods of time. For example while performing weight training exercises, like the military press, pay close attention to the number of reps and sets to avoid injury.
2. If you play multiple sports involving a lot of shoulder rotations, like swinging a tennis racket, pitching a baseball or throwing a football, avoid doing these activities back-to-back on the same day or on consecutive days. Take time off in between sports to give the rotator cuff time to heal after heavy use.
3. Sports aren’t the only thing that can cause a rotator cuff injury. People who do repetitive activities, like painting or cleaning, requiring their arms to be overhead for a prolonged amount of time, can cause damage to the rotator cuff.
4. If you notice pain in your shoulder when you’re sitting, lying down, or without being active, take a break from doing any strenuous activity. Taking this time can often let the injury heal on its own and prevent it from getting worse.
5. If you take pain medications, like aspirin, for shoulder pain, do not continue to take the medication after a week. If the pain persists, go see your doctor.
6. Often neck and shoulder pain can occur at the same time. It may be necessary to see a doctor to determine which one is giving you the pain, especially if you’re feeling symptom at rest, without moving your shoulder, and the pain, numbness or tingling travels into your hand.
Dr. Osric King is a sports medicine physician at Hospital for Special Surgery. In addition, he serves as a ringside physician and is the current medical director for the USA Boxing Metro, a local sanctioning body for amateur boxing in New York. Dr. King is also a former medical director for the New York State Athletic Commission.