Rotator Cuff Tear

Shoulder pain icon, man suffering with muscle hurt

I often talk about my recovery experience with rotator cuff tear to my clients because it was quite a journey and I believe it helps with their own recovery journey.  So I want to share my story with you today!

It came to me 4 years ago in 2015.  I just got my massage license and started to work for a physical therapist in NJ.  It was a great setting because I can try the orthopedic massage skill I learned in school.  The job was tough –  I worked on 8 to 10 patients a day.  Each session was 20 minutes so it wasn’t long session but many of the patients came with the pretty bad physical condition and the tables were pretty high with no adjustment feature while I’m just 5’3″tall

After working there close to one year,  I started to feel shoulder pain and it got worse and worse.  I couldn’t take off a shirt without my husband’s help. I couldn’t reach the back seat to get my bag in the car. I almost couldn’t push the heavy door to open in the bank.  There were many sleepless nights because of the pain I felt in my arm.  I couldn’t sleep on my affected arm but it was painful to sleep on the other arm because my affected arm was pulled by gravity.  I started to look for healthcare professionals to get help.

  1. The first one was my massage teacher in massage school.  I didn’t feel any relief from her sessions though she charged a lot and I just couldn’t afford to continue without knowing if I can get better.
  2. I googled to see what’s available to fix rotator cuff tear then I found somebody who once had rotator cuff tear and selling exercise videos for it.  Surprisingly he wasn’t any healthcare professional but somehow he figured out how to release muscle tension and pain.  The exercise was too painful for me so I returned the video.
  3. I went to the orthopedic doctor but I couldn’t stand to be dictated what to do while they didn’t try to communicate with me.  For the first visit, I waited more than one hour while there were only a few patients in the office.  The doctor spent 3 minutes running through a range of motion test and told me to get an anti-inflammatory injection and schedule MRI.  First of all, I don’t believe in anti-inflammatory med.  It can be even harmful.  I can’t just do what he tells me to do while he didn’t explain anything to me about my condition.  If he explains anything, it’s because I asked him. I know their regular routine too well because I worked for a physical therapist for one year.  But I didn’t know they are this bad.  I never used the physical therapist as a patient so I wanted to experience how it is but the first visit was enough for me. So I left their office without making an appointment.
  4. I went to a chiropractor.  He was referred by some of my friends and supposed to be an excellent chiropractor.  I went 3 times a week for 2 months and did all the homework he gave but I felt no improvement.
  5. I tried 2 other massage therapists and all the sessions were soothing but it didn’t improve my shoulder.  I noticed that they were just going through their routine and couldn’t even pinpoint the muscles that were affecting my shoulder.
  6. I came across “Trigger Point Therapy” while I was still searching for different possibilities and started to read the book about it.  Everything in the book seemed to make sense to me so I started to try this modality.  There are many books about Trigger Point and anybody can learn and apply using a tennis ball. I highly recommend you to learn for self-massage.
  7. I started to feel some improvement so I looked for a massage therapist who does trigger point and went to 2 other massage therapists.  One of them turned out to be a very experienced therapist and I felt better after the first session with her.  I was much better just after 3 sessions.  I continued to apply self-massage using trigger point until I finally felt recovered in June 2016.

When you have muscle injury, you need to work on it directly because when your muscles are so tight that are causing tendon tear, limited range of motion, or pain that interfere with your daily life, it won’t just get better by stretch or pain med.

I started my healing journey since July 2015 and it took me one year to find this one massage therapist who can help me and got back on massage practice in Oct 2016.  A shoulder injury can often develop to “Frozen Shoulder.”  You lose mobility with excruciating pain and it can take 1 to 2 years to recover.  I was pretty lucky to get better within a year, I think.   When you have a muscle injury, you need to work on it directly because when your muscles are so tight that are causing tendon tear, limited range of motion, or pain that interferes with your daily life, it won’t just get better by stretch or pain med.  Stretch should be done later in the process, not when you can’t even move your arm.

Here’s a list of books about trigger point therapy and they are very educational and helpful.

  • The Trigger Point Therapy Workbooks by Clair Davies
  • Trigger Point Self-Care Manual by Donna Finando
  • The Concise Book of Trigger Points by Simeon Niel-Asher

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