By Dr. Drew Hunt, DC
Let me begin by answering the last question: the rotator cuff is comprised of four muscles that surround the shoulder joint: Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus, Teres Minor and Subscapularis. The origins of these muscles are found primarily along the scapula (your shoulder blade), along with 9 other muscles! The scapula is what keeps your arm attached to your body and allows fluid motion of your arms away from your body during movements like swinging a golf club, lifting weights and throwing a ball. Together these structures provide support from your arms to your core. Without proper stabilization, the shoulder becomes more susceptible to pain and injury.
Simply put, imbalances in the muscles actually change the axis of motion in the shoulder, decreasing range of motion and function and increasing the likelihood of injury. Terms like “frozen shoulder”, “scapula winging” and “impingement syndrome” are the results of instability around the shoulder joint. Overuse syndrome or “tendinosis” can occur when imbalances cause certain muscles to be overworked while others are left over-utilized. This causes an inability to incorporate proper sensory input to the muscles which in turn further reduces the range of motion.
It is important to understand that shoulder issues don’t necessarily have to occur from one particular instance. In fact, most people with shoulder complaints report no history of trauma or even diagnosis from a doctor. In my experience, patients have convinced themselves that the shoulder “has given out” or “is all screwed up” from age and or athletics. Some patients just give up; others seek help but aren’t being supervised properly. Even those under professional care may be missing the underlying cause of symptoms.
If you have been doing months of rotator cuff strengthening exercises with rubber tubing and you still have shoulder pain, you may need to readdress your treatment protocols. Without a strong base of support to work from, the rotator cuff will never be able to fully recover. The shoulder and arm can only get as strong as the muscles that hold the shoulder blade onto your body.
At Compass Chiropractic, we work with athletes at all levels to assess, diagnosis and treat the kinetic dysfunction in the body, not just the symptoms. In regards to shoulder complaints, techniques such as stretching the posterior shoulder capsule, strengthening the muscles that hold your scapula in place and stretching/relaxing the tight/overused muscles that pull the scapula into a different position have had excellent results. Chiropractic manipulations and soft tissue techniques such as myofascial release, Graston, and kinesiology taping are designed to address these issues on functional, anatomical, and neurological levels.