Rotator Cuff Injury
(Rotator Cuff Tear; Impingement Syndrome)
by Mary Calvagna, MS
Rotator cuff injury may include tendinitis, strain, or tear of the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff is made up of muscles and four separate tendons that fuse together to surround the shoulder joint.
Causes of a rotator cuff injury include:
Risk Factors TOP
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition. Risk factors for a rotator cuff injury include:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. The doctor will carefully examine your shoulder. You will be asked to move your shoulder in several directions.
Tests may include:
The treatment will depend on the extent of your injury, level of pain, and amount of immobility. The first step is usually a nonsurgical approach.
This involves surgery on the bony structures that impinge the rotator cuff. Surgery can be arthroscopic or open.
A small instrument is inserted into the shoulder and used to remove bone spurs or degenerated portions of the rotator cuff tendons. Lesser tears can be repaired during arthroscopy as well.
Mini-Open Repair with Arthroscopy
This combines arthroscopy with an incision in the shoulder joint. Through the incision, the doctor can suture larger tears in the tendons or muscles.
This is used to repair the injured tendon or muscle in more severe cases. A tissue transfer or a tendon graft can be done during surgery if the tear is too large to be closed together. In the most severe cases, a joint replacement may be necessary.
Depending on the extent of your injury, full recovery can take anywhere from two to six months, and sometimes longer.
If you are diagnosed with a rotator cuff injury, follow your doctor's instructions.
To reduce your chances of getting a rotator cuff injury:
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
The American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
The University of British Columbia Department of Orthopaedics
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Last reviewed October 2012 by John C. Keel, MD
Last Updated: 10/31/2012