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  • Writer's pictureJannalee Edgar

Myths about the Rotator Cuff

There are many myths about the rotator cuff that patients will bring up in their appointments. Today, we are going to be a little like Myth Busters, and debunk some of these myths.

Rotator cuff physiotherapy assessment

With having been in practice for nearly 10 years, rotator cuff injuries are one of the most common areas treated. In my time working with patients, I have heard some myths over and over again. Some are funny. Some can actually hinder a patient's recovery.

Let us spread the facts to help build a healthier community.

Myth #1: It is called the Rotary Cuff or Rotator Cup

Fiction. Sorry if you have been calling it Rotary Cuff or Rotator Cup. The group of muscles into the shoulder is the Rotator Cuff. Did you know that there are 4 muscles that make up the rotator cuff? They are: supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis and teres minor.

Myth #2: The Rotator Cuff Moves the Shoulder in ALL Directions

Fiction. The Rotator Cuff is only responsible for a few movements. It helps with rotating the arm (i.e. scratching your back, reaching for a seat belt). It also helps lifting the arm out to the side (i.e. reaching to put on your jacket). It doesn’t help us reach forward or backwards.

"if the tissues have been torn or surgically repaired, they will all take the same amount of time to heal and maximize. "

Myth #3: A Rotator Cuff Tear Requires Surgery

Fiction. There are a variety of studies out there that show that conservative management versus surgery show the SAME outcomes. There is a stigma that if the rotator cuff doesn’t get surgery that it won’t be as strong as it would be if it had surgery. What we know about anatomy is that it takes a year for any tissues to reach full maturity. This means that if the tissues have been torn or surgically repaired, they will all take the same amount of time to heal and maximize.

Here comes a bit of a rant because of my physiotherapy bias. What I have noticed is that patients will often become impatient with conservative care and will opt in for surgery. What they don’t realize is that they are in a sling for 6 weeks after surgery. Then they go through a minimum of 12-16 weeks of physiotherapy. Within that time, they might have had full function with conservative care. Food for thought

Myth #4: Lifting Heavy Overhead Caused my Rotator Cuff Injury

Fact/Fiction. This one is a loaded one. Pun intended. Let's start off by saying an injury happens when the tissue isn’t ready for the load it experiences. This could happen if you are lifting 5 lbs. then jump to 105 the same session. I think that this one is pretty easy to understand.

BUT if you gradually work towards lifting 105 lbs. over a long period of time, those muscles will accommodate. Then after months, maybe even a year, of training; you lift 105 lbs. your shoulder will be ok. We want to be able to train our muscles stronger than what we think we are going to use them for so they are ready for the unexpected. It is ok to lift heavy overhead with proper form and gradual loading.

One of the ways to debunk these myths is to share the facts. Don't let your rotator cuff injury be dictated by the myths.

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