Doc, I’ve done something to my shoulder. It hurts when I lift my arm to the side or over my head and it kills me to lie on it at night.

Have you experienced pain like this? If you have, you may have a rotator cuff injury.

The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles in the shoulder – the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis and teres minor – that support the arm bone in the socket. The rotator cuff muscles can be easily injured as a result of repetitive stresses, normal wear and tear, poor posture, lifting or pulling (especially overhead), and falls.

“Rotator cuff injuries are most common in middle-aged people, athletes like ball players and swimmers, trades people and people with poor posture and poor upper-body strength,” says Dr. Patricia Andrews, an Edmonton chiropractor.

A rotator cuff injury can be in the form of tendonitis, which is swelling of the muscle tendons. It can also be a bursitis, swelling of fluid-filled sacs between the rotator cuff muscles. Or it can be a muscle strain or tear.

To diagnose rotator cuff injuries, your doctor will palpate the area to find the tender areas and assess the level of swelling. She will check your range of motion to see which rotator cuff muscles are weak and painful. Orthopedic tests will further determine the muscles that are injured and give an indication of whether a tear is present.

An x-ray will likely be ordered to determine if there is any arthritis. Since x-rays do not show muscle, and most rotator cuff injuries are muscular in nature, an MRI is the most definitive diagnostic imaging.

Most rotator cuff injuries can be treated conservatively with ice to decrease the swelling, rest to reduce the strain on the muscles and exercise therapy to strengthen the joint. If the injury is severe, a surgical consultation will be recommended and surgery may be required.

“The most important advice that anyone can give you is to seek treatment for any shoulder injury as soon as possible,” says Dr. Andrews. “They are stubborn injuries that are slow to improve and likely to worsen if left untreated.”

If you’ve suffered a shoulder injury, consult your chiropractor. Chiropractors are specifically educated and trained to diagnose and treat conditions of the musculoskeletal system (the body’s bones, muscles, cartilage, tendons, joints and connective tissue) to help patients regain and maintain their health.

For more information, including where to find a chiropractor near you, visit www.albertachiro.com.