Rotator Cuff Injury

Rotator cuff injury is any damage that occurs in the rotator cuff.


The rotator cuff is composed of different muscles that help stabilize and move the joints of the shoulder. Aging, overuse of joints, and direct trauma can cause damage to these muscles or to the ligaments that attach the bones to the muscles. The damage may result to extreme pain or range of motion problems to the joints of the shoulder.

The joint of the shoulders is composed of a ball-socket joint. This allows the arms to move freely in different directions. The joint is made up of the upper arm’s bone, specifically the upper end or the humeral head, and the shoulder blade or the scapula’s glenoid fossa. The humeral head is attached to the glenoid fossa through cartilages. The rotator cuff functions as a mover as well as stabilizes the shoulder joints. They also function by keeping the scapula and humeral head in the right position when moving the shoulder.

Rotator cuff injury can lead to various problems. They may cause spasm and pain that can limit the shoulder’s range of motion. The smooth movement of the humeral head and scapula may also be limited because of fluid accumulation because of inflammation, arthritis or calcium deposits, and problems in the muscle problems. The severity of injury ranges from mild to severe. Mild injury usually results from inflammation and muscle strain and does usually result to permanent damage. Furthermore, severe injuries may involve complete tearing of the muscles that may require surgeries.

Causes and Symptoms of Rotator Cuff Injury

Common symptoms of rotator cuff injury include tenderness and pain in the shoulders. The pain usually happens during events such as: sleeping on the affected shoulder, pulling, lifting, reaching behind the back, and reaching overhead. Weakness of the shoulders is also a common symptom. The shoulder may also have limited range of motion. They affected person may be as well manifest keeping the shoulder incline to keep it inactive to reduce pain. In severe cases, such as large muscles tearing, the disorder may be manifest chronic muscle pain and weakness.

Symptoms of rotator cuff injury may or may not appear immediately. Some may appear gradually. Common causes of injury include: aging, falling, poor posture, pulling, lifting, and repetitive movements. Infections such as tendinitis and bursitis may as well cause damage to the rotator cuff.

Individuals aged 40 and above normally undergo degeneration in the joints. This is because of the breakdown of collagens in the muscles and tendons in the rotator cuff. This makes the person prone to injury. Furthermore, aging may also result in the development of calcium deposits in the bones which may cause irritation in the rotator cuff.

Poor posture can result to injury in the rotator cuff. Frequent slouching of the shoulders and neck (See: neck pain relief) forward causes the area where the muscles of the rotator cuff results become small. The shoulder bones then cause pressure in the tendons and muscles in the area, leading to injury.

Other causes of rotator cuff injury include activities that cause strain in the muscles of the rotator cuff. Lifting and pulling heavy objects can lead to tear and strain in the muscles or tendons in the area. Repetitive movements of the arms can also stress the muscles, especially movements that involve overhead reaching. Examples of activities are swimming, tennis, and baseball.

Diagnosis of Rotator Cuff Injury

Diagnosis of the disorder is important because it will serve as a basis for treatment. Diagnosis involves medical history taking and physical examination. It may also involve x-rays and MRI of the shoulders and sometimes arthrogram. In an arthrogram, a dye would be injected in the joint of the affected shoulder and then x-rays would be taken. A dye is used to aid in the visualization of the tissues in the shoulder.

Treatment of Rotator Cuff Injury

Treatment of the disorder depends on the condition’s severity as well as the patient’s underlying condition. In mild cases, the disorder is often treated with anti-inflammatory medications, rest, and cold compress. Exercises for gradual rehabilitation may also be required. Usual exercises involve strengthening the muscles of the rotator cuff. For persistent inflammation and pain, corticosteroids injections may aid in solving this problem. Repeated injections may be needed.

In severe cases of rotator cuff injury, surgery may be required to treat the disorder. Surgery can be done through certain procedures such as open surgery or arthroscopy. It usually involves suturing the damaged tissues. For bone problems, subacromial decompression may be necessary. In subacromial decompress, a small portion of the bone overlying the rotator cuff is removed. This can help relieve the pressure being brought by the bone to the muscles, therefore, promoting healing. Both arthroscopic and open surgery can be used for the procedure. Individuals with extensive damage on the joints may be required a ball-and-socket prosthesis.

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