Rotator Cuff injuries

The rotator cuff is made up of four muscles, which are located around the shoulder joint. Damage to the rotator cuff can contribute to shoulder pain; the most common forms of rotator cuff injury are outlined below:

Rotator cuff tendonitis

Rotator cuff tendonitis is caused by a swelling of the tendons surrounding the rotator cuff muscles. Usually the pain is sudden and relates to an injury or repeated action; athletes who participate in throwing activities are susceptible to tendonitis, for example. Pain increases when the shoulder moves and movement may be limited if the tendons are irritated or inflamed. Treatment for rotator cuff tendonitis usually involves a combination of rest, analgesic and anti-inflammatory medication and physiotherapy. Physiotherapy will help to gradually extend the range of movement in the joint and strengthen the muscles.

Rotator cuff impingement syndrome

This condition occurs when the rotator cuff tendon is unable to move in the subacromial space (the area beneath the shoulder blade); this often happens when the tendon becomes trapped as a result of overuse of the shoulder joint or due to conditions such as arthritis. Common symptoms include prolonged periods of pain which is heightened during the night and when the arm is raised. Treatment usually involves a combination of rest, medication and physiotherapy; steroid injections may also help to increase the flexibility of the joint and reduce pain.

Rotator cuff tear

Usually a tear occurs in the rotator cuff tendon, although in some cases the muscle may be torn. This injury is usually caused by trauma or impact, such as an accident or fall. Symptoms commonly include pain, especially when the arm is raised over the head and a decreased range of movement in the shoulder joint. Treatment usually includes a mixture of rest, ice compressions, medication and physiotherapy. More severe tears may require surgery.

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