Knowing about your Rotator Cuff

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1 Knowing about your Rotator Cuff

2 Knowing about rotator cuff disorder The shoulder joint is the most mobile joint in the body and can therefore be quite unstable. It is vulnerable to injuries from sport and falls as well as repetitive movements of the joint from overhead work. Changes in the soft tissues (ligaments, tendons and muscles) that happen as you get older can make the joint more prone to injury and may change how quickly you recover. The rotator cuff is the group of four muscles and their tendons that attach to the upper arm/shoulder area (see diagram). With injury these tendons can become irritated, inflamed, swollen and eventually weaken. This can happen from doing repetitive activity with your arm at or above shoulder height eg swimming or a job that involves continuous overhead work. Rotator cuff disorders are the most common source of shoulder pain in people over the age of 35 and include the range of problems that can happen with injury to the rotator cuff. Injuries can range from simple tendon irritation through to partial or complete tendon tear. Tears usually happen as a result of trauma and are more common in people over 35 years. Regardless of the disorder, pain is the most common reason for seeing a health professional. Because of the complicated structure of the shoulder joint/neck area, it is important to try and have an accurate diagnosis to get the most out of treatment/ management options. clavicle (collarbone) detail the shoulder joint acromion rotator cuff tendons scapula (shoulder blade) humerus IMPORTANT: information in this booklet is not intended to replace advice from a health professional

3 Important facts Questions to ask your health professional Accurate diagnosis helps with better management and recovery of your rotator cuff injury. Doing appropriate exercises to keep your shoulder joint mobile will help you return to your work and usual activities. Simple painkillers, such as paracetamol, can help with pain relief and have less risk of serious side effects. Strengthening the rotator cuff muscles helps to support and protect the shoulder joint for the future. What can be done about my rotator cuff disorder? What exercises can I do to keep my shoulder mobile and strong? How will this affect my day-to-day life? What can I do to help prevent this happening again? Do I need to be completely pain free before returning to work? How do I find out about what I can do at work?

4 Tips to help your recovery Initial phase See a health professional early; accurate diagnosis is important. Ask about Red Flags these are serious conditions, such as a fracture (broken bone) that may mean you need to see a specialist or have other tests. Ask about the pain medication that is right for you. Discuss your treatment plan with your health professional. An ultrasound test may be needed to help with diagnosis. Tell them about the jobs and activities you do at home and work they may need to be changed initially. Ongoing rehabilitation and prevention If your symptoms are not improving by 4-6 weeks you may need a review and referral to an orthopaedic specialist. Ask your health professional about a programme of specific exercises to strengthen the muscles around the shoulder joint. Ask about other rehabilitation options to help your recovery. See for more information. Early rehabilitation phase To help your recovery ask about other treatment options such as a supervised exercise programme. Depending on the type of job or activities you do, your health professional may suggest changed/ alternative work duties or time off. If your job involves over head work, heavy lifting or awkward arm actions, these may need to be temporarily changed. If this happens it is important that you work with your health professional, employer and ACC to develop a safe and durable return to work plan. Discuss any worries or concerns with your health professional.

5 Things you can do Exercises Maintain general body fitness and muscle tone. To help you sleep, put a pillow under your shoulder at night to prevent you rolling onto it. While using your arm, try and keep your shoulder/ neck muscles relaxed. Keep doing the exercises recommended by your health professional. Ask your health professional if this is right for you and how often to do it. Your health professional will give you advice about other exercises that are safe for you to do that will help to strengthen and keep your shoulder flexible. range of motion exercise: Stand with your toes close to a wall or door and walk your fingers up the edge of the wall or door as high as you can as shown in the picture. Make sure your shoulder stays as relaxed as possible while you do this.

6 Staying active Everyone has a role to play Try to do all the things that you would normally do at home and work. Tasks that involve heavy lifting may need to be temporarily changed. Most people with physically demanding lives can expect to return to their usual activities by 9 weeks. But if surgery is needed, you may need to avoid heavy lifting for up to 3 months after the surgery. The time it takes to return to normal activities increases with the physical demands of the job. Most people in desk jobs can expect to return to their usual activities within a few days.... in supporting your return to activity including work (both paid and unpaid). your workplace should Be safe Provide support, help with a rehabilitation plan and suitable duties restricted hours, alternative or changed tasks to keep you at work Be in contact with ACC your family can Give you support and encouragement to stay active and positive Be reassured adequate support and treatment is being given acc can your health professional should give you Useful advice and treatment, or referral for treatment Support in developing a rehabilitation planeg exercises Appropriate follow-up i should Take control and stay positive Get in early and report my shoulder pain to my employer Seek advice and treatment from a health professional Discuss my work duties that may need to change and a plan to stay at work with my employer, health professional and ACC Provide information, support and guidance Advise your workplace and health professional about ACC programmes that can help you in getting back to work early such as the: Graduated Return to Work Employment Maintenance Programme Activity Based Programme

7 My important contacts my health professional (eg. doctor, physiotherapist) my employment contact person (eg. manager) my acc contact person (eg. case manager) ACC claim number other contacts For more information about ACC and our services call or visit We have interpreters who understand over 30 different languages. Information presented in this publication is derived in part from The Medical Disability Advisor 4th Edition ACC 2175

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