To understand a Rotator Cuff Tear, we must first understand what is a Rotator Cuff. A Rotator Cuff is a group of four small muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint and helps in stabilizing the shoulder to perform functions like lifting and rotating your arm. When your Rotator Cuff muscles work in isolation, they exhibit rotational motion at the shoulder joint – hence the name Rotator Cuff. These muscles arise from the scapula and connect to the head of the humerus, forming a cuff at the shoulder joint. The four muscles of the rotator cuff are the supraspinatus muscle, the infraspinatus muscle, teres minor muscle and the subscapularis muscle.
Rotator Cuff Tear or Rotator Cuff Injury or Rotator Cuff Syndrome is a tear of one or more of the tendons of the rotator cuff muscles. It is among the most common injuries of the shoulder and occurs generally in people who perform repeated overhead motions or forceful pulling motions. It is common with people playing baseball, football, rugby, volleyball, polo, swimming, shortput etc and in boxers, weightlifters, martial artists etc. Rotator cuff tear can range from mild to severe with limited pain and movement of the arm to complete loss of motion of the arm.
Symptoms of Rotator Cuff Tendonitis
Symptoms of Rotator Cuff Tear includes pain and inflammation in the shoulder. Pain often radiates down the shoulder. Overhead movements become difficult and it is often painful and difficult to sleep on the side of the injured shoulder. There is also pain lifting your hand or with specific movements. Crackling sounds when moving the shoulder in specific directions. The pain might be mild in the beginning and increases when the tear progresses. In some cases, it reaches a point where the normal functions of the shoulder become extremely difficult.
Causes of Rotator Cuff Injury
It is important to understand the cause of Rotator Cuff Tear, which helps in the right course of treatment. Rotator Cuff Tear can occur mainly in two ways – one is due a sudden fall or lifting something very heavy or a rapid twisting in the shoulder. The other cause is due to wearing down of the tendon that occurs slowly over time (degenerative process). The wearing down of the tendons can occur due to many reasons as follows:
- Repetitive motions
- Lack of blood supply – This is due to ageing where the blood supply to the rotator cuff tendons reduces hence impairing the natural process of repair.
- Bone spurs – This is also due to ageing where the bones form some overgrowth. These overgrowths called spurs rub on the shoulder tendons thus causing Shoulder Impingement.