Rotator Cuff Physical Examination
When an injury occurs that prevents you from doing tasks or activities, it is time to see your Doctor to get a professional medical diagnosis. If your shoulder has been hurting and your range of motion has been impacted, you may have incurred a rotator cuff injury.
It’s important to know that your medical records, both past and current can be vital to not only diagnosing whether you have a rotator cuff injury but also play a role in your recovery.
Any and all injuries or surgeries that you have had in the past can help paint a picture for your Doctor as to how your injury may have occurred. Obviously, your medical records contain pertinent information about your health. Doctor’s rely heavily on medical records as the information can show how your body best responds to treatment methodologies.
Once your medical records have been studied by your Doctor, he or she will most likely perform a rotator cuff physical examination to help identify your shoulder pain.
As the examination begins, you can expect your Doctor to scan for signs of shoulder inflammation, skin discolouration, muscle atrophy, any abnormal shoulder deformities or lack of arm rotation . Expect your Doctor to apply pressure to and feel around your shoulder region in search for areas of considerable tenderness, inflammation or heat.
As your rotator cuff physical examination progresses to confirm or rule out rotator cuff disease, the Doctor will not investigate your affected/injured arm but both of them. This tests for variations and discrepancies in both the injured and uninjured arms for limitations in your range of motion, strength, stability, reflexes, blood flow and sensation of popping or grinding within the deeper structures, tissues and tendons of your rotator cuff specifically.
A thorough examination of the state of the tendons, muscles of your rotator cuff and shoulder joint can be verified by lifting your arms overhead, out to your side and behind your back – with assistance from your Doctor.
If you are above 40 years of age, don’t be alarmed if your Doctor does a quick examination of your neck and posture.
For some patients, you may be experiencing so much shoulder discomfort and pain that your Doctor may give you a anesthetic shot into your shoulder. This will not only alleviate your pain but it can actually help your Doctor determine whether or not your lack of range of motion in your shoulder is due to weak shoulder/rotator cuff muscles or pain.
Individuals who are able to lift their arms out to the side or raise them up in front of them after the anesthetic shot has been given and their pain has subsided, can be then categorized as having a rotator cuff injury.
At this point of the physical examination, your Doctor may recommend that he/she give you a cortisone shot. Personally, I am not a big fan of cortisone shots for muscle/tendon injuries. Yes, they provide relief in the short term but are not a long term strategy for recovery.
There is no arguing that cortisone shots can aid in the reduction of inflammation and swelling but they are merely a band-aid solution.
As the Doctor continues with the physical examination, he may ask if you have been experiencing and chest discomfort or pain, especially if you are overweight and over the age of 40.
The importance of the question cannot be overlooked as your shoulder pain may not be related to a shoulder/rotator cuff injury but rather heart related. It is vital that you be honest with your Doctor as there should be no information withheld even if you think it’s not important, be straightforward and upfront as your health depends on it!
For some people, Doctors and hospitals are out of the question as they can’t afford it or have no medical insurance. If you have all the classic rotator cuff symptoms, then you can cure and treat your rotator cuff at home. A video on the next page will reveal easy steps you can implement right now to recover from a torn rotator cuff.