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Can Massage Therapy Help Rotator Cuff Injury?

Massage therapy is widely used to treat various conditions that range from mental health issues (anxiety or stress) to physical ailments (pinched nerves, muscle stiffness, etc.). As more people learn about its health benefits, massage therapy is becoming a popular way to manage pain.

From babies to the elderly, everyone can benefit from massages, enjoying the relaxation they bring, which ultimately can uplift your mood and leave your body feeling better. In fact, even doctors are now recommending their patients to go for a massage therapy as part of their recovery from certain ailments.

One such condition is an injury sustained in the rotator cuff. This article will describe what a rotator cuff injury looks like, its possible causes or symptoms, and finally, how massage therapy can help treat this ailment better. So, without further delays, let us learn about the rotator cuff.

Rotator Cuff Basics

A rotator cuff is essentially a group of four separate muscles that make up or support your shoulder joint. Since the shoulder joint is a ball and socket joint, the rotator cuff muscles perform the crucial function of contracting and relaxing to allow the best range of movement for your entire arm.

Without getting bogged down in the specifics, you must know that each of the four distinct muscles performs a particular function that allows the cuff to move. The rotator cuff’s function is to ensure that the shoulder joint remains stable so that moving your arm does not displace the ball from the socket.

So, an injury to any of these muscles or surrounding tendons and other tissues can be quite the problem, as your entire arm may hurt because of it. A rotator cuff injury may typically feel like a dull ache around the shoulder joint, with certain movements hurting more depending on which muscle has been hurt the most.

Additionally, you may also experience pain in the shoulder only if pressure is applied to it. You may also find it harder to move your arm around in the same range or manner without experiencing pain. If this is happening to you, chances are you are experiencing a rotator cuff injury, but it is best to have it checked out by a doctor for confirmation.

Causes And Types Of Rotator Cuff Injuries

There are many reasons why one may experience a rotator cuff injury. Besides getting hurt in an accident, you may hurt your muscles or the shoulder joint when engaging in sports, manual labor, or other strenuous physical activities.

A rotator cuff injury is often reported by swimmers, baseball, and tennis players, among others doing sports because there is an overhead movement of the arm involved. This is not necessarily restricted to sports only, though. Many artists, carpenters, and those engaged in physical labor experience this type of injury.

Other causes of rotator cuff injuries include aging, bad posture, and lifting heavy objects, for example.

More severe cases of rotator cuff injury may require surgical intervention. However, if the injury is minor, massage therapy may be advised. The following are a few common types of rotator cuff injuries. Treatment for these injuries depends on how bad the damage is.

  • Strains: This occurs when there is a tear in the rotator cuff muscles or in the tendons. There are different degrees of damage ranging from mild (where only a few muscle fibers are torn) to severe (when the entire muscle ruptures).
  • Tendonitis: This condition refers to the inflammation of the tendon(s). It can also happen to the bicep muscle in addition to the rotator cuff tendons.
  • Sprains: Unlike strains, this involves damage to the ligament tissue as opposed to the tendon or muscles. Another phrase for sprains is ligament injury, which can take longer to heal in comparison to the injuries described above, as circulation within ligaments is relatively slower.

There are ways to prevent a rotator cuff injury, such as maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly, but a more targeted way is by strengthening the rotator cuffs. Most people use resistance bands to do various movements that strengthen the muscles in the rotator cuff to protect against sprains and strains.

Besides using resistance bands, you can also do certain stretching exercises while at home to make your muscles and tendons tougher and, therefore, more resistant against potential damage.

How Massage Therapy Can Help Recover From A Rotator Cuff Injury

Whether massage therapy will help recover from a rotator cuff injury will ultimately depend on how severe the damage to the muscles, joints, tendons, and other tissues is. However, it is not entirely uncommon for rotator cuff injuries to be treated in part using massage therapy.

According to experts from the American Massage Therapy Association, massage therapy can help with relaxing the muscles and tissues, reducing fatigue and stress to restore optimum movement. It can also be supplemented by applying warmth for muscle tightness and alternatively icing the affected area if there is inflammation.

This goes to show that massage therapy can be used in harmony with other treatment methods, such as medication and physical therapy. Moreover, it can also bring about mental relaxation and mood improvement, which are important factors to consider when recovering from any sort of physical ailment.

Massage therapy can also directly reduce inflammation, scar tissue build-up and promote muscle healing by realigning torn fibers. These processes will reduce pain and address posture issues that may contribute to the worsening of a rotator cuff injury.

It is important to note that not all styles of massage therapy may be appropriate for treating a rotator cuff injury, depending on what stage of recovery the cuff is at. Styles that incorporate greater pressure on the tissues may not be ideal, such as a sports massage or a deep tissue massage.

But there definitely are techniques and styles of massage therapy that can stimulate recovery from the get-go. For example, one source recommends using trigger point massage therapy to reduce muscle stiffness or tension in a localized part of the body. In the case of the rotator cuff, it could be one of the four muscles that support the joint.

Similarly, another source recommends using a combination of techniques found in Swedish massages to help relax the muscles and the mind by applying light pressure onto the tissues. You can also use these techniques to help reduce the appearance of scar tissue once the scar has healed fully.

It is ideal that you go see a doctor or a physiotherapist if need be to figure out the extent of damage to your rotator cuff if you are in pain. The best way to know which treatment to go for is by first confirming with a professional how severe the case is.

Should your doctor recommend massage therapy, you may also want to inquire as to which style would suit your respective condition in-case they have not informed you already. Remember, there are multiple ways to incorporate massage therapy into your treatment plan as long as it comes suggested or perhaps even encouraged by your doctors.

To find a professional massage therapist who will know how to administer the right care needed for a rotator cuff injury, check out the Body of Beverly Hills Wellness. Learn more about what we do from our website here:

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