Rotator cuff injury: when post-exercise shoulder stiffness is a sign of something more serious

shoulder stiffnessWhen you exercise, especially after a break, it’s common to feel sore and stiff the morning after. However, did you know that post-exercise stiffness could point to a more serious issue?

Stiffness and soreness presented in the shoulder, for example, could be a sign of overuse. Many injuries present themselves in ways we don’t necessarily understand. For example, a rotator cuff injury could start by presenting as stiffness in the joint, causing you to start moving slightly differently the next time you exercise. This, in turn, can lead to a worsening of the injury.

Why ignoring shoulder stiffness can prove problematic

Dismissing post-workout stiffness as a natural occurrence could prove disastrous for the joints. If the stiffness is down to an underlying injury, it’s only going to worsen over time. The more serious the injury becomes, the longer it’s going to take to recover after seeking treatment.

The trouble is, when stiffness starts to occur, you automatically start to move slightly differently. For example, if your shoulder starts to stiffen, you’re going to start lifting weights differently and carrying out exercises in a different, unnatural posture. It is this which really poses a problem and the potential for injury.

The majority of overuse injuries will not go away by themselves. So, even if you were to rest once you notice the stiffness, as soon as you return to exercise, it is going to continue to worsen.

What you need to remember is that stiffness after exercise which relates to an injury, often means damage has been done to the tissue. Therefore, even without pain, the damage could already be done, making it important to get any long-lasting stiffness checked out by a doctor or specialist. If you are suffering from an underlying rotator cuff issue, immediate treatment is paramount.

What is a rotator cuff injury?

The rotator cuff is made up of tendons and muscles, helping to keep the head of the upper arm in the shoulder socket. If an injury occurs, it commonly causes a dull aching within the shoulder which can get worse when you lie on the affected side during the night. Those who carry out a lot of overhead movements such as athletes, painters and carpenters, are most at risk of developing a rotator cuff injury. It is also known that age is a factor in the risk of injury.

Can you prevent a rotator cuff injury?

It is possible to potentially prevent a rotator cuff injury, largely by building up the strength and stability of the rotator cuff. Making sure you don’t overuse the shoulder and that exercises are performed with proper posture is also important, but also medical intervention at an early stage can ensure a niggling issue doesn’t become a big problem.