Monday, June 25, 2012

The Rotater Review by Dr. Ben Fung

A little while back, I was asked by the people from The Rotater to take some time to review their product.  I want to first make the disclaimer that this review exclusively reflects my own thoughts and experiences, and, that the Rotator has neither offered nor provided incentive or financial gains from this review.

My first impression of the Rotater was actually through Twitter - a testament to the connective power of Social Media (a shout-out to #solvePT).  As I can be a skeptic and even cynic at times, it took several rounds of Twitter #FollowFriday #FF’s recommending the Rotater before I took a few minutes to check out their website. The first thing I saw was a picture of an individual stretching themselves into a rather generous range of shoulder external rotation.  To be honest, I was a little bit alarmed.  Most individuals do not have that level of flexibility, and, in certain contexts, such a level of flexibility can be counterproductive as one may be gaining range from the wrong regions of the body.

In any case, since I was going to write up a review, I put that impression aside to test the instrument with a clean slate; as with my Vibrams, I would first test it on myself.  The package came in the mail consisting of the Rotater, the Strong Arm Attachment, several sheets of instructions, and an instructional DVD.

Like most males, I immediately picked up the instrument and decided that I did not need or have use for instructions. I began poor attempts at properly utilizing the Rotater, fumbling it every which possible way. Finally, I took a look at the instructions for correct use. I performed several variations of shoulder stretching in rotational glenohumeral movement. Experiencing the comfortable stretch with a precisely isolated mechanic to the shoulder joint proper, I quickly popped in the DVD for more information.

Surveying the DVD menu, the BLOOPERS section caught my eye - I had to take a look. Sure enough, the instructor on film was fumbling around with the Rotater - just like me! Good! I wasn't the only one.  

Obviously, this simple tool came with higher levels of concept (much like kettlebells!).  Watching the entire DVD through, I was thoroughly impressed with the distinct advantage of self controlled shoulder orientation during stretching and strengthening. It is this ability to control glenohumeral orientation at various angles of shoulder flexion, extension, abduction, and/or adduction (and combinations thereof) that was the most appealing to me.  When utilizing therabands, resistance cables, or pulleys - it can often be a challenge to strengthen movements in precise orientations of the shoulder joint. With the Rotater, one can quickly transition between any shoulder angle without complex maneuvering or hassle with a contraption’s setting – this I liked... A LOT.

The second big advantage I found with the Rotater is that the instrument naturally isolates shoulder rotation and prevents very common compensatory movements for restricted shoulders. Not so with other methods of isolating shoulder rotation; the Rotater beats out any towel, ball, wedge, pillow, hand, fist, or belt.  The Rotater also has various set distances where one can apply the Wrist Strap for stretching, or, the Strong Arm Attachment for strengthening – a very nice feature for variations in arm length.

The tubing strength for the Strong Arm Attachment has generous strength and can be adjusted for length to create more or less tension for various levels of strength.  The Rotater also offers different levels of tensile strength for the Strong Arm Attachment to cater for different levels of ability.  However, for the Rotater to be used independently, one must have at least one healthy upper extremity to hold the handles of the Rotater.

I feel that the Rotater is ideal for athletic populations; for more acute or complex injuries, or, the geriatric population, using the Rotater independently can be a challenge.  But who says one must use the Rotater independently? When using the wrist straps, the Rotater is a great tool for Active Assisted Range of Motion in the clinical setting. Additionally, it can be used for manually resisted shoulder rotation as a mode of strengthening.

The Rotator is a great tool for improving shoulder rotational performance, however, I highly advise that one first receives proper instruction from a healthcare professional before using the Rotater. This point is supported by the people at the Rotater in that during several segments of the instructional DVD, reference to the expertise of Physical Therapists, Physicians, or Surgeons prior to the use of the Rotater were made.  This is very much appreciated as I’ve seen far too many instructional DVD’s leave individuals to explore the nuances of human movement without in-person-instruction - an exploration which commonly produces injury.

The Rotater instructions and DVD are clear and concise. The instrument is sturdy and conveniently light. The Rotater is a tool that can help fashion functional independence by empowering the individual to apply stretching and strengthening of controlled shoulder rotation. As a Physical Therapist, I am thoroughly enjoying the Rotater and will continue it's use in shoulder rehabilitation.

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