Rotator cuff: What you need to know

The rotator cuff is a group of muscles that aid in the movement of the arm and shoulder. Rotator cuff injuries are fairly prevalent, but there are a number of effective therapies available.

The supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis are the four muscles that make up the rotator cuff.

Arm movement and shoulder rotation are controlled by these muscles working together. They also aid in the retention of the humerus, or upper arm bone, in the scapula, or shoulder blade, socket. The glenoid is the name for this socket.

Rotator cuff injuries are rather prevalent, particularly among the elderly, sports, and people who work in physically demanding jobs. A medical professional can diagnose a rotator cuff injury and provide the best treatment options.

The structure and function of the rotator cuff, as well as typical injuries that affect this muscle group, are discussed in this article.

Meaning and functions

rotator cuff injury

The rotator cuff, which connects the humerus to the scapula, is made up of four muscles and tendons. These muscles and tendons act as a cuff around the shoulder joint, providing stability.

These muscles have their own distinct movements in addition to their collective function. The supraspinatus, for example, abducts the arm away from the body and aids in the movement of the deltoid muscle in the shoulder. The infraspinatus and teres minor help with lateral rotation, whereas the subscapularis helps with medial rotation.

When to contact a doctor

Anyone suffering from prolonged shoulder pain should consult a physician or orthopedic surgeon. These experts can assess the shoulder, identify the cause of pain, and recommend treatment choices to alleviate symptoms and speed healing.

Anatomy

rotator cuff anatomy

Other components, in addition to the muscle groups that make up the rotator cuff, aid in mobility and function.

These muscles are connected by several nerves, which send important signals throughout the rotator cuff. The subscapular nerve, suprascapular nerve, and axillary nerve are among them. Bursae, which are fluid-filled sacs that separate tissues, are also seen in the rotator cuff. These bursae operate as cushions, minimizing friction and protecting various tissues.

Common conditions

The following are some of the most prevalent rotator cuff injuries:

Tears

A rotator cuff tear occurs when one of the cuff tendons is torn. This rip can damage one or more tendons, although the supraspinatus tendon is the most often injured.

A partial or full-thickness tear can occur. The tendon is damaged but not entirely severed in a partial tear, also known as an incomplete tear. A full-thickness, or complete, rip completely separates the tendon from the bone and can result in a hole.

Injury and degeneration are the most common causes of rotator cuff tears. An acute tear occurs when a tendon is torn as a result of trauma or an accident. Most tears, on the other hand, are degenerative, meaning that they develop slowly over time. A degenerative tear can occur as a result of repeated stress on the tendon, a reduction in blood flow as people age, or bone spurs.

To detect a whole or partial tendon tear, medical experts may employ imaging techniques such as X-ray, ultrasound, and MRI.

Tendinitis

The inflammation of the rotator cuff tendons is known as rotator cuff tendinitis. This condition can affect people of any age, depending on their level of activity.

Tendonitis is a condition that happens when the tendons are irritated or damaged as a result of sports or repetitive overhead movements. Shoulder impingement, commonly known as swimmer’s shoulder, is a condition in which a tendon or bursa presses against the shoulder blade, creating pain. This type of injury is common in people who participate in sports like baseball and tennis, as well as those who work in construction and painting.

A doctor may perform a physical exam and suggest imaging tests to help confirm the diagnosis after asking about the person’s specific symptoms.

Bursitis

The inflammation of a bursa is referred to as bursitis. When a person moves their arm, these lubricating sacs allow the rotator cuff tendons to slide freely. Bursitis can cause when there is too much friction in the shoulder from repetitive movements or injuries.

To diagnose bursitis of the shoulder, a doctor will often perform a physical exam and use imaging studies, similar to other rotator cuff injuries.

Symptoms of injury

The symptoms of rotator cuff damage differ based on the person and the type of injury. The following are some of the most common injury symptoms:

  • a clicking or popping sound when moving the arm
  • weakness in the shoulder
  • pain or swelling in the shoulder
  • difficulty moving the arm

Tips and treatments

Depending on the nature and severity of the rotator cuff injury, treatment methods may differ. A doctor may suggest the following as part of therapy and recovery:

  • sleeping on the unaffected side or on the back
  • taking warm baths or showers to help relax the muscles
  • taking over-the-counter¬†nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs¬†or pain medications to minimize swelling and discomfort
  • applying cloth-wrapped ice packs to the affected area
  • resting and avoiding activities that may irritate the shoulder

When a person can use their shoulder comfortably, a doctor may recommend rehabilitation activities to help with healing. These stretches and exercises may also aid in the prevention of future injuries. Other treatment options may be referred by a doctor to a physical therapist or specialist.

A doctor may recommend surgery in more severe circumstances if nonsurgical methods are unlikely to be beneficial.

Conclusion

The rotator cuff is a collection of four muscles in the shoulder that control arm movement and rotation. Rotator cuff injuries are extremely prevalent because the shoulder joint is very flexible and people utilize it regularly for both sport and employment.

Anyone who is experiencing severe or persistent shoulder pain should see a doctor for a diagnosis. Resting, avoiding intense activities, and practicing moderate stretches are common treatments.

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