A rotator cuff tear is a very common type of injury. In the United States alone, as many as two million people per year seek medical treatment for this frequent injury. The rotator cuff is a term used to identify the tendons and muscles in the shoulder which function to support, stabilize, and allow the arm to move up and down, as well as rotate.
The rotator cuff consists of a set of four muscles located in the shoulder region: the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis, and teres minor. Each of these muscles attach by a tendon to the bones that make up the shoulder: the humerus, scapula, and clavicle. The rotator cuff ensures that the arm remains in the shoulder socket. However, sudden damage or injury from an accident or gradual wear and tear due to age to this group of muscles and its tendons can result in inflammation. Severe injury may then cause what’s medically known as a rotator cuff tear.
Injuries to the rotator cuff and its local tendons can cause pain as well as a decreased range of motion in the shoulder and in the case of a tear, the strength and mobility of the shoulder joint could be greatly affected. These muscles are essential for many daily life activities.
The common symptoms for a rotator cuff injury includes aching and weakness in the shoulder when the arm is lifted above its resting level, followed by swelling and bruising which creates pain and inflammation in the muscles. The symptoms may also occur during the night, especially while lying on the affected shoulder. A rotator cuff tear is more severe and serious. The symptoms include pain, decreased range of motion, weakness and a deep aching in the shoulder. These symptoms could suggest a tear and may also, often times, be much worse at night.
By Dr. Alex Jimenez