Rotator Cuff Injury

What is Rotator Cuff Injury?

The rotator cuff is a collection of tendons and muscles.  They surround the shoulder joint and keep the upper arm bone in place in the socket of the shoulder.  An injury to the rotator cuff can happen when people do the same overhead motions over and over again. Certain jobs and some sports athletes are more prone to Rotator Cuff injuries but they can happen to anyone.  They are more likely to happen as people get older. People can also get rotator cuff tears.

What are the Symptoms of Rotator Cuff Injury?

A rotator cuff injury is first noticed by pain and minimized motion.  Some describe it as a deep ache in the shoulder area.  If you lie on that shoulder, it can make sleep difficult.  Activities like reaching behind you or combing your hair can cause pain.  If you injure your rotator cuff you may also experience weakness in the affected arm.

Rotator Cuff Injury Causes

Age is a common element, increasing rotator cuff injuries; life’s natural loss of elasticity and the degeneration process contributes to the loss of muscle and bone in the shoulder. The probability of rotator cuff injuries increases after the age of forty.

Repetitive overhead movements or heavy lifting actions cause wear and tear of the tendon tissues. It’s a common injury in athletes or careers involving physical movement. Families with a history of rotator cuff injuries link genetics to this injury, possibly due to the shared cellular mechanisms. Arthritis or bone spurs may also contribute to the condition.

Accidental injuries occur with overstretching or rapid twisting of the joint. Overworking the shoulder section during exercise can cause rotator cuff injuries. Falling on your shoulder or having your arm yanked can cause a rotator cuff injury. The severity of the injury is interrelated with the shoulder’s wide range of movement, exhausting the muscles or tendons joining the muscle to the bone.

How is a Rotator Cuff Injury Treated?

Treatments often start with ice, rest, and physical therapy.  Physical therapy often works to bring back strength and flexibility. This can also help eliminate pain. If the injury is more severe, your doctor will try other treatments.

One of the treatments that may be suggested is injections of steroids.  The steroids are injected right into the joint.  Surgery is a last resort.  Some of the types of surgery that are used for rotator cuff injuries include open tendon repair, tendon transfer, arthroscopic tendon repair, and shoulder replacement.

Rotator Cuff Injury Prevention

Therapists maintain the condition can be prevented through strength training, incorporating the surrounding muscle groups to help reduce the strain to the rotator cuff. In the event the rotator cuff is injured, the condition is treatable with medications to reduce the pain and inflammation, allowing the tissues to heal, restoring the body’s original mobility.

Professional trainers use cold compression to reduce the pain and swelling. The arm is set into a sling preventing any movement of the shoulder while it’s healing. Chiropractic adjustments help to return the shoulder’s muscle function and rotator cuff movement. Talk with your doctor before beginning any form of treatment or therapy.

Extreme injuries may need surgery; expect several weeks before returning to normal activities. Once the injury is stable, strength and stretching exercises help to re-establish movement.

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Last Reviewed:
September 14, 2016
Last Updated:
December 19, 2017