Your rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that surround and protect your shoulder joint. The muscles and tendons in your rotator cuff keep the head of your upper arm bone (humerus) securely in place in your shoulder socket. An injury to these muscles and tendons can cause all sorts of complications, including pain, weakness, stiffness, and loss of function.
Types of rotator cuff injuries
Your rotator cuffs are subject to any kind of injury that can affect muscles and tendons, including:
- Strains: Tear of a muscle within your rotator cuff
- Tendinitis: Inflammation of the tendons in your rotator cuff
- Bursitis: Inflammation or irritation of the fluid-filled sac (bursa) between your shoulder joint and rotator cuff tendons
- Impingement: Rubbing or catching of the rotator cuff on the bones in the shoulder
All rotator cuff injuries can be either acute (occurring from one traumatic event, such as a sports injury) or chronic (ongoing injuries that develop over time).
Causes of rotator cuff injuries
One of the most common causes of rotator cuff injuries is general wear and tear. As you get older, your rotator cuff can erode or break down, especially if you engage in repetitive activities.
People who play sports that require heavy use of the shoulders, such as baseball, football, shotput, and golf, have a higher risk of sustaining a rotator cuff injury. Exercise, including heavy and high-volume weightlifting, can also cause rotator cuff injuries.
Other than wear and tear, sudden, jerking motions are a leading cause for rotator cuff injuries.
Risk factors for rotator cuff injuries
There are a few factors that put you at greater risk for rotator cuff injuries:
Age: Your risk for a rotator cuff injury increases with age due to degeneration of the tissues in your rotator cuff.
Activities: Certain sports increase your risk for a rotator cuff injury, particularly sports that require throwing, swinging, and repetitive overhead movements.
Manual labor: Many jobs, such as construction and painting, increase your risk for a rotator cuff injury because of the repetitive movements executed over time.
Family history: You may be at high risk for a rotator cuff injury if your family has a history of sustaining rotator cuff strains, tendinitis, bursitis, or impingement.
How to treat a rotator cuff injury
You shouldn’t neglect treatment if you suspect you have a rotator cuff injury. Without treatment, your injury could worsen and, at worst, result in a loss of function in your shoulder.
Conservative treatments — such as resting, icing, and compressing your shoulder — are a good start.
However, you should seek professional medical treatment if your shoulder pain or stiffness persists. Dr. Lee may use X-rays, ultrasound, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to diagnose your shoulder injury.
Depending on the severity of your injury, Dr. Lee may recommend injections (such as cortisone), physical therapy, or surgery. You can also take over-the-counter medications to help with pain and inflammation.
If you suspect you have a rotator cuff injury, call Orange Orthopaedic Associates right away so Dr. Lee can evaluate your injury.