The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint, keeping the head of your upper arm bone firmly within the shallow socket of the shoulder. The shoulder is a relatively unstable joint and it relies on these small muscles to provide stability. Three of those muscles, supraspinatus, infraspinatus and teres minor rotate the shoulder outwards while subscapularis which lies at the front of the joint rotates the shoulder inwards. Studies have shown that up to 80% of shoulder pain is rotator cuff related. A rotator cuff injury can cause a dull ache in the shoulder and into the upper arm
These injuries are common and increase with age. They may occur earlier in people who have jobs that require repeated overhead motions. Examples include painters and carpenters. There is an injury spectrum range from rotator cuff tendonopathies, partial tears to complete thickness rotator cuff tears.
Sometimes, rotator cuff tears may occur as a result of a single injury. In those circumstances, particularly in the younger cohort surgery may be an option.
The pain associated with a rotator cuff injury may:
- Be described as a dull ache deep in the shoulder
- Disturb sleep
- Make it difficult to comb your hair or reach behind your back
- Be accompanied by arm weakness
Without treatment, rotator cuff problems may lead to permanent loss of motion or weakness, and may result in progressive degeneration of the shoulder joint. While rest and avoiding aggravating activity is important for your recovery, complications can occur if your shoulder is immobilized for a prolonged period of time. A frozen shoulder can occur if the connective tissue enclosing the joint to becomes thickened and tight.
Assessment and treatment
During the physical exam, your physio will move your arm into different positions and will press on different parts of your shoulder. He or she will also test the strength of the muscles around your shoulder and in your arms. The results of the examination will guide the treatment. Your physio will tailor an exercise programme to help restore flexibility and strength in your shoulder and aim to get you back to your full activity level.
Click here to make an appointment for a full assessment or phone 01 2897171.