Rotator Cuff Injury

Overview of Rotator Cuff Injury

A rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint. These four tendons attach muscles from the shoulder blade and ribs to the upper arm bone. As they help in rotating the arm within its socket, they are known as the rotator cuff. 

In simpler words, whenever you are moving your shoulder, you are using the rotator cuff to help you stabilize and move the joint. 

Tendons in the rotator cuff are more vulnerable to tear as they move in a confined space. Sometimes, when the shoulder or arm moves more than its natural range of movement, the tendons in this confined space can bump and rub against other ligaments or a bony knob. This creates friction in the natural movement of the rotator cuff and further causes issues like inflammation in the shoulder.

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Signs and Symptoms of Rotator Cuff Injury

Keep an eye on these symptoms and signs:

  • Pain in the Upper Arm – rotator cuff injury will cause pain in your upper arm and shoulder. It may worsen when you try to stretch your arms. As the tendons move against each other every time we move our shoulders, so do tasks like brushing hair or reaching behind your back. 

  • Weakened Shoulder – rotator cuff injuries cause weakness in the shoulders which further limits the functioning of the shoulders. You would feel pain while lifting objects. 

  • Disturbed Sleep – you can also feel a dull throbbing pain when sleeping. Turning and tossing in bed can be extremely painful. 

Types of Rotator Cuff Injury

Causes of Rotator Cuff Injury

There can be many causes of rotator cuff injury. This can be dull pain or in some cases extremely severe injury. Some of the triggering points for this injury include: 

  • Pushing off with Arms 

Usually, people who have deteriorated leg muscles, knee pains, or arthritis of the knee, use their arms for extra support. (Like pushing with arms to rise from sitting position etc.) This use adversely affects the shoulders and almost grinds the rotator cuff. Sports collisions, head-on automobile accidents, and falling onto stretched arms can prove quite disastrous for the rotator cuff. 

  • Body Posture 

Overhead outstretched arms limit the movement of the rotator cuff. Physical activities like pushups, pitching a baseball, swimming, building construction, and auto mechanic work put a strain on the rotator cuff and can cause injuries. 

  • Vigorous or Sudden Overhead Arm Movements

Forceful or sudden overhead arm movements can cause a tear in the tendons. A weakened tendon is especially vulnerable to wear and tear. Starting a lawn move, throwing sports, racquet sports, and wrestling are also some physical activities that may result in wear and tear of the rotator cuff.  

  • Age Factor 

As you get older, the chances of having a rotator cuff injury increase. This injury is most common among people aged above 60. Another cause can be a family history. 

 

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Risk Factors of Rotator Cuff Injury

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Prevention

You can easily lead a rotator-cuff-injury-free life by being cautious and taking good care of your body. Having enough vitamins and calcium make the bones more strong and keep you overall healthy. 

Muscle-strengthening exercises, physical therapies, and range of motion activities can also help. 

When to Seek Professional Help?

You should consult a doctor if your shoulder pain lasts for more than 1 week. 

Without any proper treatment, rotator cuff injuries can last for years and may worsen over time. It's best to get them treated at once. Once you start the proper treatment of your injury, you’ll be good to go in about 4-6 weeks. 

With proper and timely treatment, you will recover soon but may get injured again if you do not change the way you use your shoulder. Elderly people are more prone to these injuries and require a longer time to heal as their shoulders have a robust blood supply. 

You can consult your physician or certified orthopedic surgeon for the treatment of rotator cuff injury.

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Diagnosis

You should always consult your doctor if you think you have signs of Rotator Cuff Injury. Your healthcare provider will diagnose this by doing a physical examination of your shoulder. 

Inflammation of Rotator Cuff – if tasks like rotating your arms at the shoulders or raising your arms cause pain, your rotator cuff may be inflamed. 

Weakness in the Arm – weakness in your arm can also be because of this injury. However, more tests will be required to diagnose this injury. 

Tears in the Arm – usually the tears in the body can be distinguished through X-rays and MRIs. They help in clearly indicating the presence of any soft tissue or tear in the body. These scans are also used to see the severity of tears. 

 

Treatment of Rotator Cuff Injury | When to Consult a Doctor

Treatment of rotator cuff injury can be done by resting the affected arm before having surgery. To avoid any complications, it's best to consult your doctor immediately. Many non-surgical methods provide long-term relief.  

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs as prescribed by your doctor can also help you in lowering the pain and reducing inflammation. Your healthcare provider may advise you of some strength-gaining exercises and range-of-motion activities. 

Without proper treatment, it can persist for months or years and can get worse over time. It's best to get it treated timely. With proper treatment, you will be good to go in about 4-6 months.