Your rotator cuff isn’t the only part of your shoulder that repetitive motion can damage. But it’s incredibly vulnerable to overuse injuries, and rotator cuff tears represent the top cause of shoulder pain.
As soon as you experience persistent shoulder pain, you should schedule a consultation with our providers at Cascade Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Center, PC. If you keep using your shoulder, the injury only gets worse, leading to more damage, a longer recovery, and a higher risk of long-lasting shoulder disability.
Here’s why your shoulder is so susceptible to pain from repetitive movement injuries.
Rotator cuff vulnerability
As a group of four muscles and their tendons, rotator cuff tissues attach to the shoulder blade (scapula) and the top of your arm bone (humerus), forming a cuff-like structure around the top of the arm and the shoulder joint.
These muscles and tendons stabilize the joint and prevent the top of your arm from sliding out of place. They also control upper arm movement. That means your rotator cuff bears the stress of supporting the arm’s tremendous range of motion while holding the joint together.
Normal daily activities put significant pressure on the rotator cuff. The stress only increases if you participate in sports, have a job, or enjoy hobbies that demand overhead arm movement.
Repetitive motion damage
Frequently repeating the same movement leads to muscle fatigue. Fatigue reduces your shoulder strength, slows your mobility, and affects your performance. In severe cases, fatigue can lead to painful rotator cuff injuries.
However, repetitive movement damage, called an overuse injury, often occurs from a natural process. When you repeat the same movement, the muscles and tendons develop tiny tears. If you rest the shoulder, your body repairs the microtear, building and strengthening the tissues.
But if you stay active and keep doing the same movements, the tears can’t heal. Then the damage gradually enlarges, becomes inflamed, and causes increasing pain.
Without treatment, rotator cuff tears can’t keep stabilizing the joint, which allows abnormal bone movement in the joint that eventually causes arthritis. This shoulder joint disease is called rotator cuff arthropathy.
Symptoms accompanying shoulder pain
The pain caused by repetitive movement typically develops gradually, beginning in the front of your shoulder and going down the side of your arm.
You may also have symptoms such as:
- Weakness when lifting or rotating your arm
- Pain when lying on the side of the injured shoulder
- Pain when using your arm
- Shoulder joint instability
- Muscle spasms
- Joint clicking or crackling
- Limited range of motion
- Gradual loss of movement
You should seek treatment as soon as you notice any symptoms. If you keep moving your upper arm, you can cause further damage to the rotator cuff and end up with chronic shoulder instability and arthritis.
Most people get relief from the pain and rehabilitate their shoulder with rest, joint injections, and exercises to strengthen the shoulder and restore movement.
If your pain continues and you have significant weakness, a large tear, or need to regain optimal strength for overhead work or sports, you may need to consider surgery to repair the rotator cuff.
You can depend on exceptional care for your shoulder pain from our team at Cascade Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Center, PC. Call or book an appointment online today at one of our offices in Hood River or The Dalles, Oregon.