Rotator Cuff: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Prevention

Health and Medicine | Nov 22, 2013

What is the rotator cuff?

Rotator cuff disease is one of the most common causes of shoulder pain. When the rotator cuff is injured or damaged, it may lead to inflammation of the bursa, called bursitis. Bursitis causes pain and loss of motion. Thickening of the rotator cuff and bursa may lead to an impingement syndrome where tissues impinge against the bones around the shoulder. There are four muscles whose tendons form the rotator cuff.




Rotator cuff disease damages the rotator cuff. It can be from an acute injury or from repetitive strains. It can be injured because of degeneration with aging or inflammation. It is possible due to tendinitis, bursitis, or arthritis. It is commonly injured by trauma.




The most common symptom of this disease is shoulder pain. This pain is often noticed gradually. Sometimes, a sudden pain occurs during a sport activity.

Rotator cuff tears increase in incidence with age; all rotator cuff tears are not painful. When it does become symptomatic, it can present in many ways ranging from minor problems to severe pain. Overhead activities like pitching, throwing, tennis or racquetball commonly worsen symptoms.


If this disease involves severe tears of the cuff tendons, it cannot be possible for the patient to hold the arm up. It happens because of pain. It decreases function of the tendons and muscles.




The diagnosis of this disease can be confirmed by radiology test. Sometimes X-rays can show bone injuries. An arthrogram involves injecting contrast dye into the shoulder joint. It detects the leakage out of the rotator cuff. The MRI is a noninvasive imaging test. It uses computer technologies to produce fine images of the tissues of the shoulder.




Rotator cuff disease can be prevented by avoiding injury of the shoulder. It can prevent by strengthening the rotator cuff muscles with exercises.



Treatment involves avoiding or reducing activities that cause or worsen your symptoms.

If the pain persists, or if therapy is not possible when severe pain occurs, a steroid injection may reduce pain. Arthroscopic surgery can remove inflamed tissue.

It can repair rotator cuff tears. The rest of the tears require a larger incision and surgical exposure.

The most severe rotator cuff disease, complete full-thickness rotator cuff tears. Usually it requires surgery for the best results. These procedures can be done by arthroscopy or open surgery that involves mending the torn rotator cuff by suturing the tissues back together.

MRI is the most common imaging method to diagnose rotator injuries tears. It can be used to look for injuries tears treatment or inflammation of tissues. Injections or arthroscopy may used to help diagnose rotator cuff tears. Tear surgery is also applicable with the specialist advice.




Exercises can help you heal from an injury and avoid re-injury.

Exercises to stretch your shoulder include:

  • Stretching the back of your shoulder

  • Hand up your back stretch

  • Anterior shoulder stretch

  • Pendulum exercise

  • Wall stretches

Exercises to strengthen your shoulder:

  • Internal and external rotation exercise - with band

  • Isometric shoulder exercises

  • Wall push-ups

  • Shoulder blade retraction - no tubing and tubing

  • Arm reach

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