Laser therapy for rotator cuff injuries can speed healing and compliment chiropractic care
Treating rotator cuff injuries generally carries a goal of restoring function and providing pain relief to the group of muscles and tendons that wrap around the shoulder joint. Even a small tear here can be uncomfortable and potentially disabling. Patients may find it’s a lot more difficult to go about their daily lives and responsibilities until their rotator cuff tissues are fully healed.
For the chiropractor, choosing the right approach to patient treatment can help get patients back to their activities quickly. Laser therapy for rotator cuff injuries can be used in conjunction with traditional chiropractic care to potentially improve patient comfort and capability.
Rotator cuff injuries
Because rotator cuff injuries can occur easily, inflammation can create a dull, aching sensation even if the original cause was part of daily activity. Sports such as tennis or golf, yard work, and intensive tasks such as painting or carpentry can all cause damage that encourages patients to seek chiropractic care.
Rotator cuff damage can occur as a result of:
- Forceful movement: Some sports such as tennis have moments of forceful movement that can damage the shoulder.
- Reaching: Overhead reaching, such as someone trying to reach above the fridge or in a high kitchen cupboard, can bring the shoulder’s movement outside the normal range of motion and may result in muscle or tendon tears.
- Pushing: Motion that violently pushes away with the shoulder may force the rotator cuff’s tissues to perform in ways that are contrary to how they’re designed to do, crushing the tendons.
The resulting damage may be painful enough to interfere with sleep, daily hygiene, work activities and other important functions. Over time, the condition may progressively worsen with the rotator cuff unable to fully heal until the right intervention is found and treatment begins.
Here are three types of rotator cuff injuries you may see in patients:
- Tearing: Patients with rotator cuff tears may need surgery, physical therapy, or even joint replacement. As such, tears are often fairly serious and may require immediate care.
- Bursitis: Surrounding the rotator cuff tendons is a pocket of fluid. Sometimes, inflammation spreads to this liquid and creates a painful condition. No matter what direction the patient moves their shoulder, it’ll probably hurt.
- Tendonitis: In this case, inflammation is limited to just one tendon. Patients may only notice pain after specific movements.
Patients may present at your office with pain and discomfort after trying home remedies or, in some cases, after unsuccessfully trying to let it heal on its own. If they have to compensate for an earlier injury, they may end up making their rotator cuff damage worse before you have an opportunity to evaluate and treat them.
When you have a conversation with your patient, find out how you can help your patient avoid future rotator cuff damage and provide them with alternatives. For instance, you may have to warn against forceful movement and recommend exercises.
Further rotator cuff damage can eventually cause a partial or full loss of range of motion. The shoulder joint itself can progressively break down. Strengthen the back of the shoulder muscles can reduce the likelihood of future issues, as can proper stretching technique.
Chiropractic care and laser treatments can help with healing and recovery.
Laser treatment options
Cold laser therapy may help tissue regenerate and can be used alongside chiropractic care. Since these devices use gentle light instead of heat or high-energy radiation, cold laser may be the right treatment option when you’re looking for a choice that’s non-invasive and has little-to-no side effects.
In conjunction with chiropractic care, using cold laser therapy may encourage restoration on a cellular level in rotator cuff tissues. Cold laser treatments may act on the mitochondria within cells, possibly causing cells to repair themselves more efficiently. For muscle tissue, this can mean your patients regain use of their shoulders sooner and have reduced pain and discomfort.
You can obtain a cold laser therapy device and provide treatment in-office or you can recommend a device your patients can purchase and use at home for laser therapy for rotator cuff injuries. However you choose to administer cold laser therapy, be sure to research different cold laser therapy devices and choose the right one for your patients — there are a lot of options available on the market.
Choose one that’s acceptable for medical use where you practice. If your patient will be using the device at home, be sure to show your patient how it works and supervise their first use.
Learn more in the Chiropractic Economics Laser Therapy Research Center at www.chiroeco.com/photobiomodulation.
- Harvard Health Publishing. Rotator Cuff Injury: What is it? Harvard Medical School. Published: Dec 2018. Accessed: Nov 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/rotator-cuff-injury-a-to-z
- Mayo Clinic. Rotator cuff injury. Mayo Clinic Patient Care and Health Information. Accessed: Nov 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/rotator-cuff-injury/symptoms-causes/syc-20350225
- Awotidebe, A., Inglis-Jassiem, G., et. al. Low-level laser therapy and exercise for patients with shoulder disorders in physiotherapy practice (a systematic review protocol). Systematic Reviews. Published: Apr 2015. Accessed: Nov 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4423144/#