The rotator cuff is a group of muscles which work together and are responsible for the shoulder (Glenohumeral) joint’s stability while it moves and rotates. The rotator cuff muscles include Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus, Teres Minor, and the Subscapularis.
The Supraspinatus and Infraspinatus are the most commonly injured rotator cuff muscles. These injuries are usually related to sports involved with a lot of shoulder rotation, such as swimming, pitching a baseball, or bowling.
Problems with rotator cuff muscles are generally classified into two categories: inflammation of structures in the joint, or tears of the tendons / muscles.
Acute Rotator Cuff Tears
This type of tear usually results from a quick, sudden, and powerful movement such as following through on a baseball pitch or a sudden thrust with a canoe paddle.
Symptoms for acute rotator cuff tears include the following:
- A sudden tearing / ripping sensation on the shoulder followed by severe pain
- Pinpoint tenderness over the point of rupture
- Limited movement due to pain or spasms
- Severe pain for a few days
- If the tear is severe enough, you will not be able to raise your arm outwards without help
Chronic Rotator Cuff Tears
A chronic rotator cuff tear will develop after a period of time. These usually occur at or near the tendon due to the tendon rubbing the overlying bone.
Symptoms for chronic rotator cuff tears include the following:
- Usually found on the dominant side
- Pain is worse at night; may affect sleeping
- Usually in people age 40 and over
- Pain becomes gradually stronger while arm becomes gradually weaker
- Eventually arm is unable to be lifted outwards without help