Rotator cuff injury
Rotator cuff injury
Your rotator cuff is made up of the muscles and tendons in your shoulder. These muscles and tendons connect your upper arm bone with your shoulder blade. They also help hold the ball of your upper arm bone firmly in your shoulder socket. The combination results in the greatest range of motion of any joint in your body.
A rotator cuff injury includes any type of irritation or damage to your rotator cuff muscles or tendons. Causes of a rotator cuff injury may include falling, lifting and repetitive arm activities — especially those done overhead, such as throwing a baseball or placing items on overhead shelves.
About half of the time, a rotator cuff injury can heal with self-care measures or exercise therapy.
The rotator cuff is composed of muscles and tendons surrounding the shoulder joint. Inflammation, painful tears or strains may occur in the rotator cuff area due to falling, lifting or repetitive ...
Rotator cuff injury signs and symptoms may include:
The most common symptom is pain. You may experience it when you reach up to comb your hair, bend your arm back to put on a jacket or carry something heavy. Lying on the affected shoulder also can be painful. If you have a severe injury, such as a large tear, you may experience continuous pain and muscle weakness.
When to see a doctor
Four major muscles (subscapularis, supraspinatus, infraspinatus and teres minor) and their tendons connect your upper arm bone (humerus) with your shoulder blade (scapula). A rotator cuff injury, which is fairly common, involves any type of irritation or damage to your rotator cuff muscles or tendons, including:
Common causes of rotator cuff injuries include:
The following factors may increase your risk of having a rotator cuff injury:
Preparing for your appointment
You'll start by seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner. If your injury is severe and requires surgery, however, you'll likely be referred to an orthopedic surgeon.
What to expect from your doctor
What you can do in the meantime
Tests and diagnosis
If your injury appears to be severe or your doctor can't determine the cause of your pain through physical examination, he or she may recommend diagnostic imaging tests to better delineate your shoulder joint, muscles and tendons. These may include:
Treatments and drugs
Most of the time, treatment for rotator cuff injuries involves exercise therapy. Your doctor or a physical therapist will talk with you about specific exercises designed to help heal your injury, improve the flexibility of your rotator cuff and shoulder muscles, and provide balanced shoulder muscle strength. Depending on the severity of your injury, physical therapy may take from several weeks to several months to reach maximum effectiveness.
Other rotator cuff injury treatments may include:
A unique treatment option now available involves the use of a reverse ball-and-socket prosthesis. This reverse shoulder prosthesis is most appropriate for people who have very difficult shoulder problems. These include having arthritis in the joint, along with extensive tears of multiple muscles and tendons (rotator cuff) that support the shoulder, or having extensive rotator cuff tears and a failed previous shoulder joint replacement.
Lifestyle and home remedies
A minor injury often heals on its own, with proper care. If you think you've injured your rotator cuff, try these steps:
If you've had a rotator cuff injury in the past, daily shoulder stretches and a shoulder-strengthening program can help prevent a recurrence. Especially important is a program of strength exercise to promote balanced strength about the shoulder. Most people exercise the front muscles of the chest, shoulder and upper arm, but it is equally important to strengthen the muscles in the back of the shoulder and around the shoulder blade.
If you are at risk of rotator cuff injuries — such as from having a job or hobby that requires repetitive shoulder motions — daily exercises can help prevent an injury. Your doctor or a physical therapist can help you plan an exercise routine.
To help prevent a rotator cuff injury:
Regular, gentle exercises help you maintain shoulder flexibility and prevent injury recurrence. For your back shoulder muscles (above, left), use one arm to stretch the opposite arm across the front ...
Last Updated: 2010-08-21
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