Rotator cuff injuries suck.
After I stressed out my rotator cuff 3 years ago from doing yoga too intensely and trying to progress too quickly (not yoga!) I fell off my strength building/maintenance routine, namely lots of push ups, and became super schleppy. I didn’t do what I needed to do to rehab the rotator cuff issue, which was a very bad move. I gained weight, my chest looked like crap and I was just generally not looking or feeling my best. Add in taking care of a baby for the first year….excuses, excuses.
But now I have had enough of that and have made a firm resolve to get it together and get back in shape. The first step is to rehab my rotator cuff. What does this involve and what have I started to do to get my RC back in shape?
1. Acupuncture and Acupressure Point Therapy
I’m a little skeptical about acupuncture. I believe it definitely has its merits when it comes to fertility, and I know it is a great way to relax, similar to a massage. Acupuncture has worked for Rache and I in both of these departments. But the practitioner has to know what they are doing. And I believe this may be an issue behind the efficacy of acupuncture. People are licensed to perform the therapy but still don’t really know enough about what they are doing. Acupuncture is an ancient practice and I believe many practitioners do not have the same understanding, channels of learning or dedication to the form as they used to (acupuncture school is about 3 years now). Of course there are experienced and knowledgeable alternative health practitioners out there, but I think there are way too many therapists who don’t have enough experience or knowledge to practice effectively. Compare that to the loan debt accumulated to get certified and the pay scale of an acupuncturist (30-70k) and it makes it hard to practice full time to develop the skills as an an alternative health therapist. I do believe the practice is valuable though in some ways and hopefully it will grow in the future as people become more and more skeptical of solely relying on western style medicine, especially these days with the rampant use of prescription drugs. Acupuncture is very controversial and further research is needed for us to better understand the practice.
From my experience with a rotator cuff injury and acupuncture therapy I can’t really say it did a lot for me. So I moved on to other forms of traditional therapy that have been proven effective.
Acupressure, on the other hand, did work for me. A type of massage, acupressure focuses on trigger points of the body to relieve tension and aid healing. For this reason I think it is more effective than acupuncture.
2. Herbs and Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Herbs are another alternative type of therapy used to help heal rotator cuff injuries. Why herbs are considered alternative I have no idea. Herbs in many cases have been proven effective in the treatment of various ailments and illnesses. Currently I am using medicinal doses of turmeric and I have found this type of therapy to be very effective in relieving inflammation and helping to rebuild damaged tissue. The main active ingredient in turmeric is circumin. Circumin is an excellent anti-inflammatory and also an antioxidant. After reading the article 10 Proven Health Effects of Turmeric and Circumin at Authoritynutrition.com, I really learned a lot about turmeric and inflammation. Check it out. One of the great things about writing a blog is what I learn while researching a topic. Two important things I learned from this article are:
- Turmeric actually contains low levels of circumin and it is more beneficial to take a high quality concentrated supplement of circumin. So I will gravitate away from just turmeric capsules to taking the concentrated supplement.
- Low level inflammation plays a major role in many Western type chronic diseases. (This is why Ra’Co Life is here. To research all of this information and present it to you in a personal and understandable manner.) Wow! totally makes sense considering how bad the standard American diet can be in the cause of inflammation.
Another thing I just learned is that the full effects of circumin are not realized until after a 2 month period of continuous use. This leads me to believe that the most immediately effective therapy for me right now is stretching and the continued use of circumin supplements.
Other herbs and foods that are good for inflammation are:
- Ginger – We use fresh ginger all of the time for cooking and juicing.
- Cinnamon – I use cinnamon in my coffee as well as other things for this reason. Check out our post on Guatemalan coffee and how we use cinnamon.
- Omega 3 Fattty Acids in fish, nuts and chocolate.
- Black Pepper – adding black pepper is necessary for the absorption of turmeric into the blood stream.
- Cayenne and Chili Peppers
- Pineapple – Pineapple contains bromelain which is said to have inflammatory properties. One of our favorite websites, mindbodygreen.com recommends mixing fresh pineapple juice (juice the core as well) with aloe, ginger and turmeric for a powerful anti-inflammatory morning drink.
- Celery Seeds – great in coleslaw!
- Dark Leafy Greens – pretty much good for everything. Eat them up!
From my short experience I would say that stretching the problem area has been the most effective and immediate form of treatment. After doing some research I have ascertained that these are the most effective stretches for my rotator cuff pain right now, which is in the front part of my shoulder, or the internal rotator cuff.
I’m going to progress slowly and introduce new stretches into my program over the next 6 weeks. Then I will begin exercises to strengthen the muscles around the rotator cuff so I don’t injure it again when I begin to workout.
Here are the 3 stretches I am doing now:
Pull your problem arm behind your head and gently pull down at the elbow with your other arm. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat two more times.
Stretch your problem arm in front of you over, pull over your body and gently press back with your other hand. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat 2 more times.
Hold a towel behind you with the problem arm. With the other hand grasp the towel at the top and gently pull upwards. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat two to three times.
4. Strength Building Exercises
As I haven’t started my strength training exercises yet, I will save these for another post. But they are the crucial and final step in rehabbing an injured rotator cuff.
I will keep you posted on my progress.
Hope this helps a little for those who have rotator cuff injuries.