The rotator cuff (four muscles in total) is also the primary support structure for the shoulder. Therefore, even minor dysfunction associated with these muscles can create significant pain and disability including shoulder pain, arm weakness, and decreased athletic performance. When a rotator cuff injury becomes severe enough to irritate the many nerves that pass through the shoulder joint it is called a Rotator Cuff Impingement. The symptoms associated with an impingement are often more severe and can include numbness, tingling and sharp, shooting pain into the arm or hand.
A Rotator Cuff problem can be caused by many everyday activities. These activities include traumatic events (e.g. fall on an outstretched arm, "yanking" of the arm), repetitive motions (e.g. playing golf, throwing a ball, weightlifting, swimming) and chronic, improper postures (e.g. operating a computer, driving).
Proper function of the shoulder requires a delicate balance between mobility and stability. Healthy joint mechanics are critical to allowing mobility and the proper combination of muscle flexibility and strength provide the necessary stability.
One of the most important and most commonly injured rotator cuff muscles is called the subscapularis (meaning "under the shoulder blade"). It is often missed by doctors because of its "hidden" position underneath the shoulder blade. When the subscapularis works properly it creates a large space between the arm bone (humerus) and the shoulder socket (glenoid fossa). If this muscle becomes overly tight or "gummed up" with scar tissue the shoulder mechanics become disrupted leading to nerve irritation. Extended periods of nerve irritation can lead to significant nerve damage and chronic pain. Although this muscle can be weak in many cases, strengthening exercises (such as seen with physical therapy) rarely produce a cure. Addressing the cause of the weakness (scar tissue) is the only way to eliminate rotator cuff dysfunction, joint pain and related nerve irritation.
Therefore, treatment for shoulder and rotator cuff pain requires a combined approach that addresses both the joint mechanics and the muscles that support joint function. Joint mechanics are best corrected with corrective chiropractic adjustments. Muscle therapy is effective at restoring both strength and flexibility to damaged muscles.