ROTATOR CUFF INJURIES
By far the most common shoulder complaint that I see in my clinic among professional truck drivers are injuries to the rotator cuff.
The rotator cuff is essentially a group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint. It functions to stabilize the joint by keeping it firmly with in the socket during shoulder movement.
Rotator cuff injuries or tears may occur from a single injury or due to repetitive strain. Occupations and sports which require a lot of overhead movements are more likely to injure the rotator cuff. Jobs such as painters, electricians and carpenters are at higher risk for rotator cuff injuries In my clinic I often treat rotator cuff injuries in flat bedders due to the physical demands of the job. Trapping and securing loads are usually the cause of the injury. In addition, rotator cuff injuries can occur due to slips and falls. Just last week I treated a driver that slipped and fell of the deck of his trailer and tore one of the muscles of his rotator cuff.
Repetitive strain injuries to the rotator cuff are also common. Occupations which require repetitive movements such as factory workers are at higher risk. Along the same lines, sports such as tennis and baseball may also increase your risk. All of these activities lead to the progressive degeneration of the rotator cuff structure.
The signs and symptoms of a rotator cuff injury vary from person to person. However, most people will experience a dull ache deep with in the shoulder. The pain associated with the injury can also be very sharp and intense if there is a significant tear. Another common symptom is worsening shoulder pain when sleeping on the injured shoulder. Many patients have difficulty sleeping due to shoulder pain. In more severe rotator cuff injuries, muscle weakness and decreased ability to move the shoulder will be experienced. It is recommended that you seek medical attention if you experience shoulder pain that lasts more than a few weeks or you lose the ability to move your shoulder in certain ranges of motion.
Your doctor will be able to diagnose a rotator cuff injury by taking a detailed medical history and performing a physical examination of the injured shoulder. If necessary, your doctor will recommend sophisticated imaging tests such as ultrasound, x-ray and MRI to better visualize the injury site.
Depending on the location and severity of the injury, your doctor will recommend the best form of treatment for you. Conservative treatment such as rest, ice and anti-inflammatory medications are usually the first course of treatment. Mild rotator cuff injuries tend to respond well to this type of treatment. If conservative treatments are not successful, steroid injections such as cortisone may be recommended to further reduce pain and inflammation. Physical therapy may also be recommended to help restore strength and flexibility to the injured shoulder. If all other forms of treatment fail, surgery may be necessary. Currently, there are several different options available for rotator cuff injuries which include arthroscopic tendon repair and open tendon repair. Again, depending on the nature of the injury, your surgeon will be able to advise you as to what the best options for surgery are for you
As I always say, prevention is the best treatment.
For my patients that drive flat bed, I always recommend that they do a light warm up before they load or unload. To do this, simply walk around your truck a few times to increase blood flow and then do some simple shoulder and arm stretches. The worst thing you can do after driving for several hours is to jump out of your cab and begin to do physical work. The reason for this is that muscles that have been stationary for an extended period of time will tend to be more tight and less pliable which in turn increases the chance of rotator cuff injury. Another good tip is to take breaks while working. This will give your muscles a chance to recover and reduce repetitive strain.
Keep these simple tips in mind and you will be well on your way to pain free shoulders.
Until next month, drive safely.
Dr Christopher H. Singh Chiropractor, runs Trans Canada Chiropractic at 230 Truck Stop in Woodstock, Ont. He can be reached at 519-421-2024 E.mail: chris_s[email protected]patico.ca