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Rotator Cuff Injury

  • What is a Rotator Cuff Injury?

    The rotator cuff is a network of 4 muscles and several tendons that form a covering around the top of the humerus (upper arm bone). It holds the humerus in place in the shoulder joint and allows the arm to rotate. Rotator cuff injury refers to the inflammation and swelling of this network. It is one of the most common causes of shoulder pain.

    There are 3 common types rotator cuff injury:

    • Rotator cuff tendonitis
    • Rotator cuff impingement syndrome
    • Rotator cuff tear
  • Rotator cuff tendonitis is caused by irritation and swelling of the tendons of the rotator cuff muscles. This may be due to an injury or overuse of the shoulder. It can occur in athletes who take part in throwing sports or in non-athletes who do regular heavy lifting or activities involving repetitive movements of the shoulder.

    In rotator cuff impingement syndrome, the rotator cuff tendon becomes trapped and is repeatedly rubbed against the shoulder blade, leading to wear and tear of the tendon.

    Rotator cuff tears are tears in the rotator cuff tendon instead of the muscles. It often happens as a result of a fall or an accident in younger people. In older people, tears are usually caused by rotator cuff impingement syndrome.

    • Rotator cuff tendonitis – generalised shoulder pain or pain that worsens with overhead activities or at night
    • Rotator cuff impingement syndrome – chronic shoulder pain that worsens with overhead activities or at night
    • Rotator cuff tear – pain and weakness in the shoulder
  • Treatment varies according to the type of injury.

    Nonsurgical treatment options relieve pain and improve shoulder function include:

    • Rest and limiting overhead activities and activities that cause shoulder pain
    • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
    • Strengthening exercises and physical therapy to restore movement and strengthen your shoulder
    • Steroid injections

    If the pain persists and does not improve with nonsurgical methods, or if you actively use your arms for work or sports, your doctor may recommend surgery.

    Surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff, combined with a physiotherapy programme after, are aimed at improving your shoulder strength and motion, as well as reducing pain.

    Consult an orthopaedic surgeon to determine the treatment method most suitable for you.

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