Rotator Cuff Injuries
You are almost certainly reading this page because you have suffered one of the rotator cuff injuries I am about to describe.
I want to give you a simple, straightforward explanation about what it is that may be affecting you.
Here I want to give you a detailed overview of the types of rotator cuff injuries you may have or could suffer.
What is a Rotator Cuff?
Quite simply the rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that are positioned around the shoulder joint and connect to the upper arm bone or humerus. They are shown above are named as follows:
The rotator cuff muscles work together as a unit. They have two important roles both to stabilize the shoulder joint and to assist with shoulder joint movement.
The four tendons, tendons attach muscles to bones, of the rotator cuff muscles join together to form one larger tendon, called the rotator cuff tendon.
It is this tendon that connects to the head of the humerus. There is a space underneath the acromion of the scapula, shown above, called the subacromial space and rotator cuff tendon passes through here.
What are the commonest rotator cuff injuries?Shoulder pain affects around one in five people; so you are definitely not alone.
Just as significantly is the fact that rotator cuff symptoms are by far the most common cause of shoulder pain. There are a number of different reasons for the onset of painful rotator cuff symptoms.
TraumaYou may have suffered a major trauma that has affected the rotator cuff such as a car crash or high impact sporting injury.
This will almost certainly have badly affected not only the rotator cuff but the shoulder as a whole and possibly more of your body. This type of injury can require rotator cuff surgery.
This is the most common of the rotator cuff injuries to affect younger people (under 40). Thankfully these are relatively rare events; although it was just such a sporting injury that got me started on my own rotator cuff journey.
Rotator Cuff tendonitisThe most common form of shoulder pain is without doubt rotator cuff tendonitis. Rotator Cuff tendonitis is caused by irritation and inflammation of the tendons of the rotator cuff muscles.
Rotator Cuff tendonitis often has a sudden or acute onset. Rotator Cuff tendonitis can be brought about by overuse of the shoulder. For example, it can occur in those who participate in such things as throwing sports or tennis.
In non-athletes there may be a history of recent heavy lifting or activities involving repetitive movements of the shoulder.
There is another form of rotator cuff tendonitis known as calcific tendonitis. This can occur when due to long standing inflammation calcium is deposited in the tendons and they are said to have become calcified.
Rotator Cuff tendon tearRotator cuff tears are most common in people over the age of 40 years.
A rotator Cuff tendon tear can take two forms either a full tear, possibly requiring rotator cuff surgery; or a partial tear mainly treated by exercise.
The classification is based purely upon the amount of damage. This is best seen using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
A normal rotator cuff
Rotator cuff with a partial tear
Rotator Cuff with a Full thickness tear
Rotator cuff tears are most commonly a rotator cuff tendon tear rather than a tear in any of the muscles themselves.
Rotator Cuff tendon tear injuries are most common in older people, over 40 and become more common with advancing age. A rotator cuff tendon tear is, for example, much more likely in a person of 80 rather than a person of 40.
Rotator Cuff impingement
A rotator cuff tendon tear is often caused by rotator cuff impingement syndrome; this is discussed in great detail under the heading “rotator cuff impingement” in the anatomy section.
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