The rotator cuff is the socket where a grouping of four muscles and tendons meet and connect to the upper arm (humerus) and the shoulder blade (scapula). A fluid filled sac, known as the bursa, sitss between the socket and the bone and helps provide the lubrication needed for the shoulder to rotate and extend.
Over time, the cartilage within the rotator cuff can become damaged due to small tears or traumas. The weakening of this cartilage can lead to pain and instability of the shoulder. In more severe cases, the cartilage may tear completely causing the bones of the shoulder to rub together. In other cases, Rotator Cuff Tears are brought on by the formation of bone spurs that rub against the joint and irritate the cartilage.
Athletes whose positions require repetitive throwing motions are susceptible to this injury as well as those whose jobs require repetitive motion of the shoulder.
- Pain when raising the arms
- Pain in the shoulder
- “Catching” or “popping” of the shoulder joint
- Feeling of the joint “locking”
- Decreased range of motion
- Weakness in the affected arm
Many Rotator Cuff tears may be treated non-operatively with rest and physical therapy. If rehabilitation is not successful, or for cases where there has been a traumatic event, surgical treatment may be considered. The indications for surgery should be based on individual circumstances such as type of tear, patient age, activity level, functional needs and response to previous treatment.