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Rotator cuff comprises of four small muscles that help to control, stabilize and move the shoulder joint.  This group of muscles can tear apart. Traumatic events, overuse, and fatigue of the rotator cuff can result in rotator cuff tears.  The injuries can either be acute or chronic.  Traumatic rotator cuff tears occur when one lifts heavy load quickly.  Studies have confirmed that repeated microtrauma can lead to rotator cuff tears and can take several weeks, months and even years.  Repeated injuries in the rotator cuff due to pinching of rotator cuff tendons can injure the soft tissues causing swelling and bruising.

Symptoms of rotator cuff tears

The tears can either be partial or full thickness.  The more severe the tear is, the more painful it is.  The shoulder tends to become weak and incapable of functioning.  If the tear is mild, then one may notice a click sounding when elevating their hands above the shoulder height.  However, in case of a full-thickness tear, one may experience severe pain and even find it hard to lift the elbow away from the body.  In other serious cases, the tear may become very painful resulting in a tear of fibers which not only makes them painful but too weak to function properly.

Diagnosis of rotator cuff tears

A series of clinical tests are done based on one’s history to detect a rotator cuff tear and other sports-related injuries.  An ultrasound scan can accurately reveal the size and location of the tear.

Who is at risk of rotator cuff tear?

Construction workers and athletes like baseball pitchers and other sports enthusiasts are at high risk of experiencing rotator cuff tears.

Naturopathic medicine to treat sports injuries and rotator cuff tears

• Use of ice, heat and rest

For pain that is not too severe, one can use ice, heat and rest to treat.  Use of cold ice pack or cold compress can help to relieve the pain, inflammation and swelling for all new injuries.  Ice is recommended for use immediately after the injury.

Heat can be used 48 hours after the injury.  Heat aids to improve the circulation of blood to the muscles thus promoting repair and natural healing.  It opens up the blood vessels making it easy for blood to flow.  When applying either heat or ice, one should be careful as it can cause skin damage.

Resting helps to protect the shoulder from more stress which helps to promote natural healing.  When resting, try to sleep on your back.  Alternatively, you can sleep on the side that is not injured.  Use pillows beneath the shoulder to avoid causing more damage.  Additionally, abstain from carrying heavy loads over your shoulders as it may hurt.

Physical therapy exercises

Workouts can help to strengthen and stretch rotator cuff muscles thus reducing the stiffness, weakness, and pain.  The exercises can include holding a 2-3 pound weight in one hand.  Dumbbells, plates or any other stuff that is within the required weight range is recommended. Before exercising, it is good to talk to a physiotherapist or doctor for evaluation.
Other exercises such as standing row and crossover arm stretch are good.

Acupuncture

This can help relieve shoulder pain resulting from swelling of the rotator cuff tendons.  Acupuncture is based on traditional Chinese medicine.  It focuses on stimulating specific points to restore the flow of qi which can make one feel healthy after an injury.

Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy

The method involves the passing of sound waves via the skin to reduce pain and promote natural healing in the body.  The treatment has been widely researched and found to help treat the swelling of the tendons in the rotator cuff caused by abnormal calcium deposits.  The therapy can help to promote shoulder functioning and lessen the pain.

Other natural treatments

There are other herbal treatments that have been known to treat rotator cuff tear.  These include gelatin, ginger, willow, wild yam and devil’s claw.  Turmeric has powerful anti-inflammatory compounds that can help to reduce inflammation.  Alternatively, one can drink pineapple juice as it contains bromelain enzyme that can help to reduce swelling and reduce injuries in tissues.

Bottom Line

While most of us may overlook the role played by the shoulder, a slight injury and pain in the shoulder can paralyze most of our daily activities.  In case you experience injury in the rotator cuff, the above are the non-invasive, natural treatment methods to consider.

Pure Health Natural Medicine | 745 NW Mt Washington Dr, Suite 104 Bend, Oregon 97703 | (541) 639-3494 | Functional Medicine Bend, OR | Acupuncture Bend, OR | Naturopath Bend, OR

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