Will Your Shoulder Blade Hurt With A Torn Rotator Cuff?Jo Clacher
Article by Alex Clarke
Will Your Shoulder Blade Hurt With A Torn Rotator Cuff?
The most common shoulder presentation we see in the clinic is related to impingement at the shoulder and overuse of the rotator cuff tendons. Injury or irritation of these structures tend to show up with pain at the tip of the shoulder into the outside and front of the upper arm.
One of the key things we look for in an assessment of your shoulder injury is how the neighbouring joints move. This includes the scapulothoracic joint between your shoulder blade and the underlying rib cage. Whilst not a true “joint” with fluid, the scapula slides over the ribs below, and requires strong stabilisation from the muscles that surround it. You can think of it as like the shoulder blade is the foundation for your house – without strong foundations, the house may fall over. Commonly there is an issue with these foundation structures, which then overloads the shoulder, resulting in shoulder pain. Alternately, pain at the shoulder changes the amount and order in which your shoulder blade stabilising muscles turn on, which again results in different loading of the shoulder itself.
The bonus here is that as you learn to control the shoulder blade positioning, and as the strength around this area improves, your shoulder pain often reduces as there is less load going through the shoulder itself. Certain patterns of movement and position are really common. We all know about slumped shoulders, where the shoulder blade falls forward and usually down. Try comparing yourself in the mirror – do your shoulders sit at the same height? Small differences are normal with handedness and activity requirements, but if these differences are more pronounced that can be part of the problem.
For these reasons, we often look at the strength, control and endurance of these shoulder blade stabiliser muscles before we start to exercise the rotator cuff muscles. Your physio is an experienced at putting these key findings together with specific testing of the shoulder to not only settle down your current injury, but also look to prevent your next one.
More info: Scapulohumeral Rhythm
- Shoulder Instability
- Rotator Cuff Syndrome
- Shoulder Tendinopathy
- Rotator Cuff Calcific Tendinopathy
- Rotator Cuff Tear
- Bicep Tendinopathy
- Shoulder Impingement
- Swimmer’s Shoulder
- Shoulder Bursitis