The rotator cuff consists of the tendon attachments of the muscles that are responsible for shoulder motion. There are four muscles that make up the rotator cuff and include the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis. Although the muscles are separate and distinct structures, the tendons of these muscles coalesce to become a continuous tendon structure that forms a “cuff” around the shoulder joint.
Injuries of the rotator cuff are a common cause of shoulder pain and dysfunction. The majority of these injuries occur from repetitive overuse and cannot be attributed to a single injury event. With age, the tendons undergo degenerative changes and are unable to withstand the stresses that are put on them. The tendons are similar to a climbing rope in that they are composed of millions of collagen fibers that are tightly wound to form a very strong structure. With repetitive overuse, microscopic tears occur and do not heal properly. When many of these microscopic tears occur, a full rotator cuff tear can be the result.
You can diminish your risk of suffering from a full rotator cuff tear by participating in a regular shoulder strengthening program. The tendons respond to this regular stress by getting stronger and more resistant to injury. Many times, if symptoms are recognized and a proper diagnosis is made prior to a full tear, you can recover by beginning this program.
If a tear has already occurred, it usually does not have the ability to heal without surgical repair. One of my specialties is repairing rotator cuff tears with a minimally invasive technique known as arthroscopic surgery. During this outpatient surgery, I utilize a camera and specialized instruments to repair your tear through four 1/4” incisions. While it is certainly best to avoid this injury, patients who require arthroscopic repairs have great success better than 90% of the time.
If you are suffering from shoulder pain, please call for an expert evaluation. I will assess your shoulder and determine the most appropriate treatment course that will get you back in the game.