Rotator cuff injuries fall into two broad categories — sudden injury and gradual degenerative conditions, and can vary from mild inflammation to complete tears.
What Is The Rotator Cuff?
The rotator cuff is a group of 4 muscles surrounding the shoulder joint that function together to increase the stability of the shoulder to help it track properly to avoid impingement or bursitis.
Since the shoulder girdle is a joint meant to have lots of mobility, stability is often compromised so these muscles become very important in maintaining the congruency of the joint. Without these rotator cuff muscles your body would have to rely more on passive structures (ligaments and the joint capsule) which can make them more susceptible to injury.
Common injuries that can occur with weakness of the rotator cuff include shoulder dislocations, labral tears, impingement syndromes, or bursitis.
The rotator cuff also assists with shoulder rotation, which is necessary in activities such as throwing, reaching, or washing your hair. Without the ability to rotate the shoulder we would have to use other muscles to compensate, which will cause them to fatigue early on
We often associate rotator cuff injury with athletes, but it’s also a common degenerative condition seen in people who work overhead for extended periods of time, with the risk increasing with age.
The rotator cuff is composed of muscles and tendons that surround the ball of your upper arm and help keep it in the socket. There are four muscles involved: supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, subscapularis.
Inflammation or tearing of these muscles or tendons can make working overhead uncomfortable or painful. People with rotator cuff injuries often describe the pain as a dull ache in the shoulder which worsens when they try to sleep on the affected side.
The prognosis for recovery from a rotator cuff injury often depends on the type and severity of the injury, which can range from mild inflammation to a complete tear in one of the muscles or tendons surrounding the shoulder. Where inflammation is indicated, recovery can often be achieved through exercises designed to strengthen the shoulder and enhance flexibility in the joint.
Partial or complete tears more often seen in athletes are more complex to treat, and can ultimately need surgical repair followed by a similar exercise program to provide strength and enhance flexibility.
How Apex Can Help
See your doctor if you have sudden restricted motion after an injury. The health specialists at the Apex Centre are well equipped to evaluate and treat the more common degenerative-type rotator cuff injuries which are often occupational.
Rest and activity-modification are often the first steps where milder inflammation is indicated, followed by strengthening exercises and physiotherapy.