Rotator Cuff Injury Overview
The rotator cuff is an extremely important structure located within the shoulder joint responsible for stabilizing the shoulder and allowing overhead motion of the arm. Composed of four muscle-tendon units, the rotator cuff muscles include the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis and teres minor. If any of the muscle-tendon units sustain injury, patients may experience shoulder pain and loss of motion. A rotator cuff tear is commonly seen as the tendon degenerates with aging and overuse. It is unusual to see rotator cuff tears in patients under the age of 50 unless there has been significant trauma to the shoulder. Santa Barbara, Goleta, Santa Maria and Ventura, California orthopedic shoulder specialist, Dr. Jervis Yau focuses on rotator cuff treatment, both surgical and non-surgical, to return patients to the athletic activities following a rotator cuff tear.
What Causes a Rotator Cuff Tear?
A rotator cuff injury is commonly marked by “tearing” of the tendon attachment from the humerus (upper arm bone). A rotator cuff tear typically occurs from:
- Acute trauma- A hard hit or fall from a height
- Overuse- Repetitive, continuous overhead motions associated with athletic activities, such as pitching, swimming and tennis
- Degeneration- Normal wear and tear from the natural aging process causes a collagen breakdown, making the tendons and muscles more prone to injury
A rotator cuff tear may also be associated with tendonitis or shoulder impingement in certain patients. Injuries to the rotator cuff can range from mild strain to complete tear.
What are the Symptoms of a Rotator Cuff Tear?
Rotator cuff tears are characterized by pain over the top and side of the shoulder. Pain may also be referred down towards the elbow joint and often interferes with sleep. Another common symptom many patients experience is joint weakness. The combination of pain and weakness can make activities of daily living difficult.