People who are physically active -professional and amateur athletes, sports fans, or those who have a job requiring overhead activities like lifting, pulling, or pushing - may find themselves with a painful shoulder that doesn't get better with time. This could be a rotator cuff injury. People with rotator cuff tears have symptoms that include pain when you try to move your arm away from your body, when you lift it or lower it from a fully raised position. Muscle atrophy around the shoulder is another symptom. If this describes you, visit a doctor for tests which can diagnose a rotator cuff tear.
Once diagnosed, you'll likely be a candidate for surgery to repair the rotator cuff tear. Happily, modern surgical procedures are usually minimally invasive (depending on the size and complexity of your tear and other factors) outpatient procedures so your rotator cuff surgery recovery is accelerated.
What happens after surgery?
After surgery, your physician will refer you to a physical therapist for rehabilitation so your healing process is properly managed. Surgery, no matter how minimally invasive, causes soft tissue trauma which in turn starts what's called an inflammatory response that increases tissue temperature at the affected site, causes tissue edema (swelling) and the movement of leukocyctes into the tissue. These are useful for removing tissue debris but can also cause cell injury and necrosis.
There can also be significant post-surgical pain, swelling and muscle spasms. This is why your rotator cuff surgery recovery should include immediate cold and compression therapy so you recover faster with less pain.
Why cold therapy?
Cold (or cryo) therapy has a long and confirmed history as an excellent treatment for soft tissue injury and trauma. It's used for two important reasons - to control swelling and to reduce pain. Cold treatment has an analgesic (numbing or deadening) effect which lessens pain. Proper cooling has been shown to promote earlier and more aggressive exercises.
Cryotherapy systems today go way beyond a bag of crushed ice or frozen peas. Advanced solutions to speed healing use an integrated cold therapy device that offers adjustable temperature control, specialized shoulder wraps ideal for rotator cuff surgery recovery, and a portable design so you can do therapy nearly anywhere, anytime.
Why compression therapy?
Compression at the site of the injury is also commonly used to help with post-surgical tissue healing. It helps reduce swelling by limiting the pooling of fluid in the injured tissue outside the blood vessels; this pooled fluid can slow the body's ability to deliver important healing nutrients to the site and can also limit body mobility, which also slows the healing process.
Though some physical therapists rely on static compression (a simple wrap at the affected area), more advanced therapy techniques use what's called intermittent or active compression, which has an additional healing benefit - it speeds up lymphatic drainage which reduces swelling from the area and encourages faster recovery.
Why combination cold and compression therapy?
Smart surgeons and physical therapists know that the best way to help get their patients back to work and their normal life is to use an integrated, ergonomically-designed dual system that delivers both cold and intermittent compression in one portable system. Repeated studies show that combining cold and intermittent compression is associated with less post-operative intervention, less physical therapy expenses, improved pain relief, and a quicker return to work and daily activities.
Ask your surgeon or physical therapist about the system that professional athletes all over the world use to help them more quickly rebound from a shoulder injury. How was your physical therapy handled?