When your shoulder hurts it might be a problem with your rotator cuff…The rotator cuff is a group of muscles around your shoulder blade that connect to your upper arm and work to raise your arm over your head or reach behind your back. There are actually four muscles of the rotator cuff that connect the shoulder blade or scapula to the upper arm or humerus.
Types of Rotator Cuff Tears
There are many different types of rotator cuff tear problems and injuries. Sometimes they can come from an acute injury such as a fall or wrenching of the shoulder. However, the the major cause of rotator cuff tears in patients over 40 years of age is just chronic wear and tear and degeneration of the tendons. If the rotator cuff tendon is pinched by part of the scapula called the acromion with repeated activities it will often wear out just like your jeans might wear out over your knee if you kneel a lot.
Most people do not actually feel pain in their shoulder with rotator cuff problems but will feel the pain when they try to sleep or raise their arm to the side. Some pains may actually be felt in the upper arm heading towards the elbow. Other things that aggravate rotator cuff problems can be reaching behind your back, trying to pull a shirt over your head, or reaching out to grab something.
Most of the time, an evaluation with a good physical examination will suggest a rotator cuff problem and often times an MRI will be used to confirm the diagnosis of a rotator cuff tear.
How Rotator Cuff Tears Are Treated
Many rotator cuff problems can be treated nonsurgically with anti-inflammatory medications, steroid injections or physical therapy or all of them combined with our goals being to relieve pain and restore the range of motion and strength of your shoulder. However, if you use your arm for sports or work or just have difficulty with some basic activities such as dressing, bathing, and sleeping surgery may be required to address the rotator cuff problems.
Most patients feel better after a good explanation of their shoulder problem and the options to start getting better. Contact me if you have questions or would like to schedule an appointment to evaluate your shoulder.