There isn’t anyone that I know that enjoys pain, however, some of us will ignore pain when we have it. Sometimes the pain is infrequent and we don’t realize that it might be a more serious injury such as a rotator cuff injury. Currently, I’m dealing with a rotator cuff injury that I had no idea I had.
A rotator cuff injury can be a little difficult to diagnose because you may get what’s called ‘referred’ pain from it. Referred pain means that you actually feel the pain in a different area of your body than where the actual injury is and that’s what happened in my case. I was getting pain just above my elbow and down through my fingertips. My shoulder felt fine. I suspected that I was having muscle spasms in my arm.
It started about six months ago. I got up one morning and as I was putting my arm through my sleeve while getting dressed, I had this excruciating pain. The pain went away quickly and it didn’t occur again for a few days.
Since the pain was infrequent, I didn’t let it bother me too much. As time went on, the pain became more frequent and doing simple things like reaching for a glass in the cupboard became painful.
Whenever I would get this pain, it would usually shoot right down my whole arm to my fingers. It felt like a vibrating pain, like a nerve or muscle spasm and since it was in my right arm and I’m right-handed, the pain began to happen more frequently.
After 3-4 months, I went to see my doctor. I didn’t think it was anything serious because the pain still wasn’t happening all the time, however, it was getting annoying. My doctor had me do a few exercises and decided that I needed to go see a physical therapist. I was prescribed a muscle relaxer, however, that didn’t really seem to work.
On my first visit with the physical therapist, she thoroughly examined my arm and the different ways that I could or could not move it. She diagnosed the problem as a rotator cuff injury and I’ve been having physical therapy for six weeks now. This rotator cuff injury is not a tear, thank goodness, it’s called “impingement”.
Impingement means that for some reason, my rotator cuff has slipped a little and pain usually occurs whenever I extend my arm. It’s the extension of the arm that involves the shoulder and rotator cuff. The big problem with a rotator cuff injury is that any movement that creates pain can mean that you are re-injuring the shoulder. It can take weeks or months to heal because of the constant use of your shoulder.
Having this impingement of the rotator cuff is weird to say the least. I can do certain things without any pain such as digging in my garden, lifting boxes, and raking leaves. However, if I reach for something, try to tie my shoe laces, or push a plug into a socket excruciating pain occurs. You can see how I didn’t think my shoulder or arm pain was serious because I could still do a lot of strenuous activity without any pain. I was very surprised when I was told it was a rotator cuff injury.
Sleeping is another major problem with a rotator cuff injury. I can’t sleep on my injured arm and there are certain movements that I do while sleeping that will immediately wake me up with terrible pain. I usually wake up several times at night with pain. This is very common with a rotator cuff injury.
How did I get this rotator cuff injury? Who knows. Sometimes it happens from one specific activity such as baseball pitchers will get this injury quite frequently. It can also be a gradual injury that finally snaps. An example would be poor posture. Having poor posture and then performing an activity such as quilting can combine and produce a rotator cuff injury. Since I’ve had this injury, I’m finding out that it is pretty common with quilters. I need to get ergonomically correct with my quilting once I get back into it.
My physical therapist said that it’s not uncommon for people, especially men, to wait a year or two before seeking medical attention. The problem is that if you wait that long more damage is done to your shoulder and rotator cuff and usually the only corrective procedure is surgery. Fortunately, I didn’t wait that long and my rotator cuff injury should be corrected through physical therapy and daily exercises.
I’m no doctor and we all have different levels of pain that we can endure, but I would suggest that if you have pain and it becomes more frequent over time, then do yourself a favor and see a doctor before serious damage occurs. I thought I had simple muscle spasms which would have been easily taken care of with a muscle relaxer. That’s not the case and this rotator cuff injury is going to take awhile to heal. I have to be patient, do my daily exercises, and try to remember not to make any fast movements with my right arm.
For more information on a rotator cuff injury, you can click here on WebMD.com. They talk about a rotator cuff tear which has similar symptoms to a rotator cuff injury. Either way, you don’t want the pain from this injury to continue. See your doctor so that you can begin the process of healing.
Sources: Personal Experience, unfortunately,