Recently I received a distress call from a client, "Help! I've rotated my cuff during my gym session. When can I come to Pilates? " Unfortunately, my client had overloaded her shoulder joint when she lifted a weight that was too heavy for her. Fortunately, she put it back down when she realised, minimising, but still causing a minor injury to the rotator cuff muscles of her shoulder.
One of the most commonly occurring issues in my Pilates studio over the years has been injuries to the rotator cuff muscles. It can affect everyone from young elite athletes to new mothers and the elderly. Fortunately, Pilates provides all the necessary tools for both rehabilitating these injuries and preventing further injuries in the future.
What Is The Rotator Cuff?
The Rotator Cuff is a group of 4 muscles, supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor and subscapularis that surround and stabilise the shoulder joint. Each muscle has individual functions, but they work together to hold the head of the humerus or upper arm bone firmly in the shoulder socket or glenoid cavity, forming the shoulder or glenohumeral joint. These muscles allow you to rotate your arm when scratching the centre of your back for example and to raise your arm above your head when bowling a cricket ball or drying your hair with a hairdryer etc.
What Type Of Injuries Can Occur To The Rotator Cuff Muscles?
Partial or full-thickness tears can occur to the muscles or tendons and this can be caused by overloading the shoulder joint with a weight like my client, a fall where you put out your arm to save yourself or wear and tear caused by repetitive movements over time resulting in degenerative changes. In addition, the tendons, which attach the muscles to the bones, can also become inflamed resulting in Tendinitis. If the fluid-filled sac or bursa between the shoulder joint and the rotator cuff tendons becomes inflamed or irritated this will result in Bursitis. Shoulder Impingement can occur when the supraspinatus tendon becomes pinched or catches on the shoulder bones. All of these conditions cause shoulder pain of varying degrees depending on the severity and type of rotator cuff injury.
Who Is Susceptible To Rotator Cuff Injuries?
Almost everyone is at risk of a rotator cuff injury at some point during their lives as the shoulder or glenohumeral joint is by design a very unstable joint. The ball of the humerus is large and the socket is very shallow so sports and repetitive movements put a strain on the ligaments and other support structures gradually loosening the joint over time. One of my colleagues once likened this joint to a golf ball sitting on a golf tee, which gives you an idea of the instability of the joint. Sports involving overhead throwing such as cricket, water polo, baseball and tennis pose a risk of injury as do trades such as painting, carpentry and electrical. The elderly are at risk due to falls and rounded upper back posture which compromises the position of the shoulder joint causing wear and tear on the joint structure.
How Can Pilates Assist With These Injuries?
Injury prevention is the ideal situation that Pilates provides so with appropriate strengthening of the rotator cuff muscles in addition to core and glute strengthening it's possible to future proof your shoulders. This way if you do have an injury like my client I mentioned in the intro, who has several years of Pilates training behind her, the recovery process is usually so much quicker and easier and in her case after clearance from her GP, took 4 weeks. If you are just starting out with Pilates your recovery time may take longer and depending on the severity of the injury could take months but you should see gradual improvement along the way and the results are definitely worth the time and effort. Strengthening of the rotator cuff muscles, as well as core, glute and back strengthening creates a strong, stable and balanced body which also promotes good posture, allowing the shoulder joint to function in the most efficient way possible. Some people mistakenly "rest" an injured shoulder but unfortunately this only delays the recovery process. Injured shoulders need continual small appropriate movements to prevent them from locking up and becoming stiff which Pilates can provide. "If you don't move it you'll lose it" is particularly true for shoulders. JS Mind Body Pilates my Online Pilates Studio provides a high quality shoulder rehabilitation program, take the free 10 day trial now, self cancel at any time. If you have any questions please don't hesitate to contact me. Pilates really is the perfect solution for rotator cuff injuries!
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