Rotator Cuff Problems
The starting point for treating any rotator cuff problems is a thorough rotator cuff injury assessment. There are a few basic stages in this assessment process and is it this that I want to cover in detail.
Pretty much anyone with any rotator cuff problems will undergo this process. If you have had problems In the past this should be familiar territory.
No matter how your injured rotator cuff occurred an initial doctor’s assessment will be required. A family doctor is most people’s first port of call.
Only if you have been unlucky enough to have suffered a major trauma or serious shoulder damage will you start out at a hospital. I will assume that you are starting with the family doctor.
This is roughly what you should experience. I have tried to set it out in a structured way. Your experience may be slightly different but don’t be concerned by that.
Every initial diagnosis starts with a thorough consultation. The consultation will be split into two distinct phases. The first is an explanation of events that led up the muscles of the rotator cuff becoming injured.
A fact finding phase, if you like. The second phase should be a thorough physical examination.
History of the injury
The fact finding phase should also cover two distinct areas. Initially your recent relevant medical history should be discussed.
Especially any earlier rotator cuff disease or anything that you may have suffered that previously affected the shoulder. It will also include the seeking of a detailed account of exactly what triggered the rotator cuff problems you are now experiencing.
Second should be a review of how the condition affects you physically. Again this will include two basic sections detailing the onset of the rotator cuff problems and how the injured rotator cuff feels now.
You will be asked to cover such things as
The second phase will be more about how the injury feels now, such things as
As an example of what you may experience I intend to focus upon the tests used to establish a rotator cuff tear.
It is important to remember that for a torn rotator cuff, weakness either with or without pain is the key diagnostic sign.
It is this weakness that a number of these tests are seeking to establish.
Firstly however the doctor will conduct a visual examination.
This will be followed by pressing and feeling around the affected area.
The doctor will be looking for any of the following signs
Your range of motion will tested; along with stability and strength. Your reflexes, blood flow and the sensation in the affected area will be measured. This will then be compared to the uninjured joint.
This comparison is so important to establish as accurately as possible the extent of the rotator cuff problems.
The tests below are generally used to establish the site and scale of a rotator cuff tear. It may be necessary to follow up with more detailed tests such as xray and mri scans. Nevertheless, they should provide a fairly accurate initial assessment.
There are, as I said earlier, other tests for other rotator cuff problems such as bursitis or impingement. This is just to give a flavour of how in depth rotator cuff injury assessment can and should be.
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