The rotator cuff is not one bone or muscle. Rather, it is a group of muscles and tendons that all work together to keep the shoulder stable. Rotator cuff injuries are injuries that occur within any part of this group of muscles and tendons, and they range from mild to severe. Learning more about the variety of injuries can help you make better decisions about the doctor you see and the treatment you receive.
3 Types of Rotator Cuff Injuries
There are three many rotator cuff injury types.
- Strains or Tears – These are typically the worst of the rotator cuff injuries and are marked by a strain or complete tear of any of the muscles or tendons in the rotator cuff. They occur due to acute trauma or, in some cases, repetitive overuse. The strain or tear can be relatively mild or extreme, as well.
- Bursitis – Bursitis is a condition in which the fluid-filled sac between the tendons in the rotator cuff become inflamed due to overuse or injury.
- Tendinitis – This is the most common rotator cuff injury. It occurs when the tendons in the rotator cuff become swollen and inflamed, typically due to repetitive motion. People who play tennis or who lift their arms above their head during a hobby or profession are most likely to suffer from tendinitis.
Symptoms vary from one injury to the next and may include sudden mild to severe pain, swelling, bruising, and a loss of range of motion.
Rotator Cuff Injury Treatment
The best treatment for a rotator cuff injury depends on the type of injury as well as its severity. Bursitis and tendinitis help people feel better about half the time, and they include the application of heat or ice, physical therapy to help restore range of motion, anti-inflammatory medications, cortisone injections, and immobilization of the affected arm. If the nonsurgical treatments do not promote healing, or if the injury progresses into a tear, surgery to repair the tear is by far the best option. Nonsurgical rotator cuff treatments take anywhere from one to four weeks to provide marked results; those who have surgery recover in anywhere from six weeks to six months depending on the severity of the injury.
Rotator cuff injuries are quite common, and they may occur for any number of reasons including overuse, repetitive movement, and even traumatic injuries sustained in an accident. If you suspect that you may have a rotator cuff injury, seeing a doctor right away and following your detailed treatment plan is by far the best way to ensure proper recovery.