The rotator cuff consists of a group of muscles and tendons surrounding the shoulder joint. You may experience pain and difficulties in raising and rotating your arm with tendon injuries. Injuries to rotator cuff tendons can develop through wear and tear, an impact to the shoulder, or by swinging your arm repeatedly in an upward motion. Untreated injuries can lead to frozen shoulder, causing constant pain and an increased limit in range of motion.
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Rotator Cuff Muscles and Tendons
The rotator cuff consists of the subscapularis, supraspinatus, infraspinatus and teres minor. These muscles and corresponding tendons function to keep the shoulder joint stable and assist in arm rotation. Pain when raising your arm is a sign of Inflammation or injury to the rotator cuff. The supraspinatus tendon is most vulnerable to injury, because of its location. When inflamed, the supraspinatus is pinched between bones, resulting in chronic impingement syndrome. The tiny fluid filled sac, or bursa, supporting the supraspinatus tendon also can sustain damage, leading to bursitis. Tears to the tendon can develop if untreated.
Rotator Cuff Injuries
Lifting heavy objects, combing your hair, dressing and sleeping on the affected shoulder can trigger pain and soreness. Muscle weakness and consistent pain, with minimal arm movement, may indicate tearing and severe damage to rotator cuff ligaments. Bad posture, wear and tear and repetitive overhead movements, performed during sporting activities such as tennis, squash and baseball pitching, can cause rotator cuff injuries, as can pulling heavy items, or receiving a hard blow to the shoulder.
Use ice packs to reduce inflammation and pain associated with rotator cuff injuries. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication and rest also is recommended. Cortisone injections may be part of treatment in cases where pain is excruciating, although MayoClinic.com cautioned this can result in the deterioration of joint cartilage, nerve damage, rupturing and weakening of tendons, and a thinning of soft tissue and skin surrounding the injection site. Cortisone injections are limited to a minimum of three to four shots each year to minimize these risks. Physical therapy can assist in the management of rotator cuff injuries, as it helps strengthen muscles, increase range of motion and prevent the development of frozen shoulder. Medication may be administered before physical therapy to reduce inflammation and decrease pain.
Rotator Cuff Surgery
Supraspinatus tendon tears can occur through continual and extended friction against bone spurs. Surgery may be an option in such cases, followed by physical therapy, to further promote healing and rehabilitation.