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Q: What are the symptoms of rotator cuff injury?

Posted July 10, 2013 in Advice Column, Norwalk

A: The rotator cuff (RC) is a group of muscles that help the shoulder move. The rotator cuff is a major connector of the arm to the trunk and is responsible for much of the shoulder’s stability.

• What are some common symptoms of an RC injury?  Many times pain is the first signal of an RC injury. It can come on gradually or suddenly.  Often the pain is felt on the top and outer portion of the upper arm. You may also notice weakness in the involved arm. Routine tasks such as raising your hand above your head, reaching out to the side or behind your back can become difficult. Lying on the affected shoulder may become painful.

• How is an RC injury diagnosed? Most often your family physician will take a history and do some testing of the shoulder. If he or she  determines it is necessary, he or she can order an MRI of the shoulder or send you to an orthopedic specialist to help decide if surgery is necessary.

• What is the recovery period like? After surgery, much of the process depends upon the severity of your tear. Generally, most people wear a sling for four to six weeks following surgery to protect the new repair. Physical therapy is very important to return your shoulder to full function. Your therapist will work on progressing from range of motion to strengthening over the course of therapy. Most people are in therapy for about three months and spend an additional six to nine months after finishing therapy on improving their overall strength and functional level. Please call our Norwalk Clinic at 515-953-1310 with any questions regarding your sore shoulder.

Information provided by Nicole Smith, MPT, Norwalk Physical Therapy, 800 Colonial Circle, Suite 100, Norwalk, 515-953-1310.

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