Your rotator cuff is one of the most important components of the shoulder as it consists of muscles and tendons that hold the shoulder in place. Each year, millions of people in the United States go to their healthcare providers because of a rotator cuff problem. Having an injured or torn rotator cuff can weaken your shoulder and make everyday activities more challenging and painful. It’s important to know what the most common rotator cuff injuries are, the symptoms, and when to seek medical help.

Anatomy of the Shoulder

Your shoulder is made up of three bones: the upper arm bone (humerus), the shoulder blade (scapula), and the collarbone (clavicle). The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint: The ball, or head, of the upper arm bone, fits into a shallow socket in the shoulder blade.

Your arm is kept in your shoulder socket by the rotator cuff. A rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that come together as tendons to form a covering around the head of the humerus. The rotator cuff attaches the humerus to the shoulder blade and helps to lift and rotate your arm. There is a lubricating sac called a bursa between the rotator cuff and the bone on top of the shoulder. The bursa allows the rotator cuff tendons to glide freely when you move your arm. When the rotator cuff tendons are injured or damaged, this bursa can also become inflamed and painful.

Common Injuries

Rotator cuff injuries can range from mild to severe and include:

  • Tendinitis – This is a condition in which the tendons connecting muscle to bone become inflamed and irritated. This injury is typically caused by overusing the rotator cuff and can lead to pain and tenderness just outside the joint. 
  • Bursitis – Your bursae are fluid-filled sacs that help reduce friction between the joints in your body. Some of these sacs sit between the rotator cuff tendons and the underlying bone and act as cushions. Bursitis is when bursae become inflamed due to overuse or frequent repetitive motion. The symptoms related to this condition include pain, swelling, and stiffness. 
  • Strains/Tears – The tendons that connect muscles to bones can overstretch (strain) or tear, partially or completely. The rotator cuff can also strain or tear after a fall, car accident, or another sudden injury. These injuries typically cause intense and immediate pain. Other symptoms include pain when lying on the injured shoulder, pain when lifting or lowering your arm or other specific movements, weakness when lifting or rotating your arm, or a cracking sensation when moving your shoulder in certain positions. 

If you have a shoulder injury and you keep using it despite the increasing pain, you may cause further damage. Early treatment can prevent your symptoms from getting worse. It will also get you back to your normal routine much quicker. Give us a call and schedule an appointment with Dr. Hicken today! 435-787-2000