Rotator cuff injury

Rotator cuff is the group of tendons in the shoulder joint providing support and enabling wider range of motion. Major injury to these tendons may result in tear of these tendons and the condition is called as rotator cuff tear. It is one of the most common causes of shoulder pain in middle aged adults and older individuals.

Causes

Rotator cuff tear results from pressure on the rotator cuff from part of the shoulder blade (scapula) as the arm is lifted. It may occur with repeated use of arm for overhead activities, while playing sports or during motor accidents.

Symptoms

Rotator cuff tear causes severe pain, weakness of the arm, and crackling sensation on moving the shoulder in certain positions. There may be stiffness, swelling, loss of movement and tenderness in the front of the shoulder.

Diagnosis

Your surgeon diagnoses rotator cuff tear based on a physical examination, X-rays, and imaging studies, such as MRI. Rotator cuff tear is best viewed on magnetic resonance imaging.

Conservative Treatment Options

  • Rest
  • Shoulder sling
  • Pain medication, injection of a steroid (cortisone) and a local anaesthetic in the subacromial space of the affected shoulder to help decrease the inflammation and pain
  • Exercises to improve range of motion of the shoulder.
  • Massage therapy may be recommended to improve joint flexibility and response to exercises.
  • Exercises that strengthen the rotator cuff muscles are gradually introduced.

Severe injuries require surgical repair followed by physiotherapy to restore strength and range of motion.