Rotator Cuff Injuries
Prone to injury, the rotator cuff is a group of muscles that stabilizes the shoulder joint.
The rotator cuff isn’t a single tendon—instead, it comprises four muscles that come together to stabilize the shoulder joint and allow for a full range of motion. There are several types of injuries that can occur in the rotator cuff, such as:
- Partial and complete tears
- Shoulder impingement
- General wear and tear
Rotator Cuff Injury Causes
Acute rotator cuff injuries occur during a particular incident, such as a blow to the shoulder or lifting something too heavy. Chronic or degenerative injuries, on the other hand, gradually develop over time as a result of repetitive stress (most rotator cuff injuries fall into this category).
Anyone can damage their rotator cuff, but certain factors may increase your risk of injury. These include:
- Playing sports, particularly baseball or tennis
- Having a job that requires frequent overhead movements, such as painting, carpentry or construction work
- Being over age 40
Rotator Cuff Injury Symptoms
The symptoms of a rotator cuff injury can vary depending on its type and severity. Many people experience:
- A dull ache within the shoulder joint
- Arm weakness
- Shoulder pain that keeps them awake at night
- Difficulty reaching above or behind the head
The symptoms of a mild rotator cuff injury may resolve on their own with rest and self-care measures like placing an ice pack on the shoulder. However, it’s important to speak with a medical professional if your discomfort does not improve with rest, is severe or occurs immediately following a traumatic incident, such as a fall.
Rotator Cuff Injury Diagnosis
Diagnosing a rotator cuff injury typically begins with a physical exam, during which a physician may evaluate arm strength and apply pressure to certain areas of the shoulder. Following this exam, an X-ray, ultrasound or MRI scan may be performed so that a physician can view images of the shoulder joint and come to a diagnosis.
Rotator Cuff Injury Treatments
Tampa General Hospital’s Orthopaedic Institute provides a full spectrum of specialized musculoskeletal care to patients with all types of rotator cuff injuries. Many patients benefit from conservative approaches like physical therapy, although minimally invasive surgery may be recommended to repair damaged tendons.