Although February is normally a really grey month, particularly after the excesses of Christmas, we’re now starting to notice the nights getting lighter, which is always good for morale! This usually means that everyone starts to get more active – whether that is chasing children around, walking dogs, training for spring marathons or getting the garden under control before Spring.

The strangest culprit for injuring people this week, are dogs – known as man’s best friend, they also seem to be conspiring against you all! We have a patient who has been knocked flying by his large dog – we’re now treating him for knee pain – but Injury of the Week has been caused by a dog taking off after a cat and damaging their owner’s shoulder.

The sudden jerk of the lead almost pulled the lady in question off her feet and resulted in instant pain in her shoulder. She went home and took some anti-inflammatories, but when it hadn’t improved in 3 days, and her arm felt really weak, she came to see us.

After examining her, she has damaged her rotator cuff – this is a group of 4 muscles and their tendons that hold the upper arm to the shoulder blade. It is really hard to tell exactly how much of a tear has been created when there is so much inflammation initially – if it was a full-thickness tear, then the only real option is surgery, but this looks like it is a partial-thickness tear, which can often be fixed by rehab with a good physio.

Shoulders are tricky beasts though, so make sure that your physio is really experienced and has a specialist interest in this specific body part.

To start with, treatment consists of limiting and reducing the inflammation (caused by the torn edges). We then gradually load up the muscle, so that it repairs and strengthens without ‘pulling apart’. Sometimes the area also needs to be stretched as it heals, (newly repaired tissue tends to be tight and can effectively shrink-wrap the joint too tightly) or needs strapping to help to keep the shoulder in the correct place, while it is weakened by a tear.

It is amazing how debilitating only being able to use 1 arm is, driving, dressing, washing hair, unloading the dishwasher – can all be nigh on impossible one-handed. A far better, less painful, and cheaper option is to have a well-trained dog (which we can’t help with)!

If you have any questions, you can also Ask A Physio for free advice if you’ve hurt yourself – or call us on 01282 453 110.