Shelby physical therapists can treat and prevent rotator cuff injuries with these strengthening exercises

The rotator cuff—not the “rotator cup” or “rotor cuff,” as some people mistakenly call it—is an important group of muscles and tendons in the shoulder that allows the arm to lift and rotate.  In addition to permitting movement, it stabilizes the shoulder and helps the joint maintain good alignment and posture in many daily activities.  Without the rotator cuff, we’d be unable to perform many common motions that we take for granted.

Based on the fact that the rotator cuff serves such an essential role and is used so frequently, it’s also a common site of injury.  Injuries to the rotator cuff occur most often in people who repeatedly perform overhead motions in their jobs or sports like painters, carpenters and swimmers, tennis and baseball players, especially pitchers.

When these activities are performed regularly for a long period of time—or through the aging process—the rotator cuff tendons eventually become inflamed from over-stretching or repetitive stress, which can lead to pain or injury.  The most common injuries seen are rotator cuff tendinitis (shoulder impingement), shoulder bursitis and rotator cuff tears.  Symptoms of rotator cuff injuries are usually described as a dull ache that’s deep in the shoulder, which makes it difficult to reach behind the back or lift the arm and may be accompanied by arm weakness or sleep disturbance.

When rotator cuff injuries occur from overuse or a single incident, conservative (non-surgical) treatment is typically recommended and should include strengthening exercises prescribed by a physical therapist.  These exercises are effective not only for treating injuries, but can also help prevent them in the first place.  Here are some examples:

  • Pendulum exercises: holding a dumbbell, let your arm hang loose and swing it around in a circle; then try swinging it back and forth using your body
  • Forward flexion shoulder raise: holding a dumbbell, keep your arm straight and lift it directly in front of you until it’s at eye level
  • External rotation: using a resistance band or dumbbell, keep elbow at your side and bent at a 90° angle, and slowly move your hand outwards away from the body
  • Internal rotation: same as external rotation, but move hand towards your body
  • Scapular squeezes: lie on stomach with arms at sides, draw shoulder blades together and down back as far as possible; ease about halfway off from position and hold it
  • “Full can” exercise: stand with arms at side, elbows straight and thumb facing up, raise arms on a diagonal until the hands reach your shoulder

Make sure you are switching arms when performing these exercises on to even it out.  Doing these strengthening exercises on a regular basis can lead to significant improvements and reduce your injury risk, especially if you’re involved in overhead sports.  For more guidance on how to perform these exercises or for any other pain you may be experiencing, out Kings Mountain and Shelby physical therapists can help. Contact Cleveland Physical Therapy Associates in Kings Mountain and Shelby, NC at 704-471-0001 for more information or to schedule an appointment.

Shelby physical therapists break down some common tennis injuries and how they can be prevented

If your idea of exercise is grabbing your set of racquets and heading to the nearest court, you’re probably glad it’s spring and you can actually play tennis outside once again. Tennis is a great form of physical activity that works out many parts of the body, but unfortunately, just like any sport it can also lead to injury.

Tennis can be played on a variety of surfaces like clay, grass, and hard court, and it requires lots of speed, power, balance and coordination in order to play properly. As a result of these factors and the general repetitive nature of tennis, a number of injuries to the elbow, wrist, knees, ankles and spine can occur. The majority of tennis injuries—about 67%—are overuse injuries. This means they come about after performing the same motion repeatedly over time, while traumatic injuries are the result of a single incident and account for the other 33%.

One of the most well-known tennis injuries is lateral epicondylitis, or tennis elbow, which is an overuse injury of the muscles that help wrist extend. Other common injuries to the upper limbs include rotator cuff tendinitis and wrist strains, which usually occur due to the high velocity of the tennis ball and the repetitive arm motions in tennis.

Injuries to the lower limbs are also very common in tennis and are caused by the sprinting, stopping, pivoting and pounding nature of the sport. These include ankle sprains, knee pain, Achilles tendinitis and tennis toe. Due to the all the rotating of the torso in tennis, back pain and injuries may also come about in some players.

Since most of these injuries are due to overuse, it should be refreshing to know that in many cases, they can be minimized or even prevented with proper conditioning and techniques that will also improve your game. We recommend the following:

  • Always warm up and stretch before playing, and cool down afterwards
  • Be sure you’re using proper footwear and equipment; most tennis shoes are more robust than running shoes due to their multi-directional purposes
  • Maintain adequate fitness and flexibility levels with conditioning exercises that are specific to the physical demands of tennis
  • Perform strengthening exercises, especially for your arms and core muscles, to prevent overuse injuries that occur from weakened muscles
  • Avoid over-repetition of any one type of shot; instead, practice a range of strokes
  • Have an expert evaluate your gameplay to ensure your techniques are being executed correctly, and focus on improving areas that need work
  • Incorporate some non-tennis cross-training into your exercise routine

If tennis is your favorite warm-weather hobby, then you certainly don’t want to be derailed by an injury at any point over the next few months of spring and summer. For more guidance with conditioning and strengthening exercises that will prevent injury, our Kings Mountain and Shelby physical therapists at Cleveland Physical Therapy Associates & Prescription Fitness can help. Call us at 704-471-0001 for more information or to schedule an appointment.

Residents of Kings Mountain- physical therapists from Cleveland Physical Therapy Associates explain why you might not be getting enough sleep every night

Most people should be well aware by now that getting enough sleep on a regular basis is an extremely important part of maintaining good health. Getting at least seven (but preferably eight, or even nine) hours of sleep every night can lead to countless benefits, including stress relief, reduced risk of many chronic disorders, improved memory and cognitive function, and possibly even weight loss and a longer lifespan./

But somehow, despite the supporting body of evidence that continues to grow, many of us still aren’t getting enough nightly sleep. Statistics show that 35% of Americans get less than seven hours of sleep every night, while 63% say their sleep needs are not being met during the week. Why do so many people continue to have issues at bedtime?

There are a number of possible explanations that can help answer that question—including busy or fluctuating schedules, dietary habits, and insomnia—but in our technological age, one of the biggest culprits may actually be even simpler: light.

Research has shown that too much nighttime light exposure, especially from bright screens, suppresses the production of melatonin, the major hormone that controls sleep and wake cycles. A reduction in melatonin directly leads to sleeplessness, and not enough melatonin over time can impair immune system function and increase the risk of cancer, type 2 diabetes, obesity and heart disease.

Short-wavelength, or blue light suppresses melatonin production the most, and it also happens to be the light typically emitted by devices like TVs, computers, tablets and cell phones. Normal levels of room lighting can also have similar effects, meaning a bright room with a bright screen is all around a bad combination when bedtime approaches.

The good news is making some basic modifications to your schedule can lead to some significant improvements in your sleeping habits. Residents of Kings Mountain- physical therapists from Cleveland Physical Therapy Associates recommends the following tips:

  • Reserve your final hour before bed as a relaxing time that’s free of too much stimulation, especially any bright screens, including cell phones
  • Make your bedroom a sanctuary and keep it cool, quiet and dark, and sleep on a mattress that’s not worn out and comfortable for you
  • Try to go to bed and wake up around the same time every night; on weekends, try to stick to this and only allow about a one-hour difference
  • Spend time outdoors every day if possible and exercise regularly
  • Avoid big meals a few hours before and alcohol right before bedtime
  • Try software like lux, which makes your computer look like the room you’re in at all times by changing its colors appropriately
  • Consider using a pair of amber-lensed goggles like Uvex once the sun goes down, which block blue light; it may be difficult to get over the concept of wearing goggles every night, but these have been proven to be effective

At Cleveland Physical Therapy Associates, with two locations in Shelby and Kings Mountain, NC, we encourage you to take these steps to improve your sleeping habits and overall health. For any aches or pains, call 704-471-0001 to schedule an appointment.

Kings Mountain physical therapists explain the role of necessary pain in our treatment

The phrase “no pain, no gain” is often used to describe what’s necessary in order to achieve benefits from workouts. In some cases it’s also used when referring to physical therapy, which can wind up scaring patients and giving them the wrong impression before their first visit. At Cleveland Physical Therapy Associates, we’d like our patients to know that while there is some truth to that statement, it’s important to maintain an open dialogue about what you’re experiencing in order for us to make your treatment as comfortable as possible for you.

Pain is essentially an unpleasant sensory experience associated with either actual or potential damage to tissues. When pain occurs, it’s usually our body’s way of telling us something isn’t working right. In general, there’s a certain level of pain that’s acceptable and normal after exercising. In most cases this is delayed onset muscle pain, which is a dull ache of muscles following a strenuous workout that should subside within 3-5 days. This type of pain is no cause for alarm, while longer-lasting pain typically means something is wrong.

For extended pain or any serious injury, physical therapy is often sought out with the goal of improving strength and flexibility and reducing overall pain. While some pain be necessary during treatment, it’s important to keep in mind that this is entirely dependent on the type of injury, your level of pain and your pain threshold.

Patients with certain conditions like shoulder impingement syndrome (a group of painful shoulder problems) will receive treatment that’s pain-free, as additional pain can further injure shoulder tissues. For other conditions, though, like frozen shoulder (stiffness and pain in shoulder), treatment includes stretches and movements that can be painful but are necessary to regain range of motion.

Another example of potential pain is when physical therapy is given after surgery. Some patients will be able to go through their treatment without much pain, but others who wait too long or start getting stiff after surgery will have to push a little harder and endure a certain level of pain. Once again, this is completely essential in order to help these patients undo damages and restore their abilities.

What you should understand is physical therapy usually focuses on healing damaged tissues. Depending on the stage of recovery and state of the patient, pain may be involved, especially if tightened tissues are stretched or weak muscles strengthened. Your pain will be individual to you and will never be more than you can handle.

During your first visit, a physical therapist will evaluate you with tests that will be slightly painful to get an idea of the level of injury and what makes it better or worse. Throughout the entire treatment process, your physical therapist will also ask if your pain is sharp or throbbing, if it occurs at the end of a motion or if it continues on after the exercise. These are signs that something else may be wrong and that a change is needed. At every step of the way, our Shelby and Kings Mountain physical therapists will monitor your pain and make adjustments to the treatment program when they are required.

The concept of “no pain, no gain” in physical therapy carries some truth to it, but should be no reason to ever fear going to see a physical therapist, where the goal is to reduce pain, not create it. If you’re experiencing lasting pain of any sort, visit Cleveland Physical Therapy Associates at either of our two locations in Shelby and Kings Mountain, NC. Call 704-471-0001 to schedule an appointment.