The rotator cuff is the group of muscles and tendons surrounding your shoulder. It keeps the head of your upper arm bone within the socket of the shoulder and helps move and stabilize the shoulder joint. Injury to the rotator cuff can result in aches or pain in the shoulder, worsened during sleep or strenuous activity. Injuries to the rotator cuff are most common in athletes or people who perform overhead motions in their jobs – painters, carpenters, etc. The risk of injury increases with age.
Symptoms of rotator cuff injuries include: pain and spasm during shoulder movement, difficulty moving shoulder or limited range of motion. Fluid sometimes accumulates in the joint because of inflammation, causing the limited mobility of the shoulder. Arthritis or calcium deposits may develop over time because of this limited mobility, causing further problems with the shoulder joint.
The severity of the rotator cuff injury could range from a mild strain and inflammation to a partial or complete tear of the muscle. Injury to the muscle tendons are called strains and are classified by the amount of damage to the muscle. Grade 1 strains involve the over-stretching of the muscle fibers with no tears. These type of strains are easily treatable and should leave no lasting damage. Grade 2 strains involve partial muscle or tendon tearing and Grade 3 strains involve a complete tear of the muscle or tendon.
Most rotator cuff injuries are treated with physical therapy exercises meant to improve flexibility and the strength of the muscles in the shoulder joint. However, a tear to the rotator cuff caused by single injury shoulder be treated by a professional as soon as possible. Extensive tears to the rotator cuff may require surgical repair, involving the transfer of alternative tendons or a full joint replacement.