Also commonly known in the anatomical arenas as the rotor cuff, the rotator cuff disorder is a designation which refers to an assemblage of muscles (the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor and the subscapularis) and very strong ropelike filaments called tendons.
The rotator cuff sustains the bone of the upper arm (the humerous) within the shoulder socket which is the hollow of the shoulder blade (the scapula) and maintains their stability while allowing their smooth, wide range of motion.
Disorders of the Rotator Cuffs
When the tissues of the shoulders become diseases (inflamed or infected), irritated or damaged; rotator cuff disorders may occurs. Such disorders may include:
- Inflammation of the tendons which is also known as tendinitis.
- The bursa is a small sac filled with fluids that acts as a protective cushioning between the tendons and bones of the shoulder. An inflammation that affects the bursa is known as bursitis.
- A condition in which the tendon is squeezed and chafes against the bone is known as impingement. This causes an inflammation and internal bleeding which then builds up scar tissue that causes the tendon to stiffen, to brittle and to be more susceptible to injuries.
- In cases where calcium builds up in the tendons leads to conditions known as calcific tendinitis.
- 5.The wearing down of tendons of the rotator cuff as part of the normal life activities.
- The partial or total tearing of tendons of the rotator cuff. Healthy rotator cuffs in young people are very strong but they can still tear during accidents or severe falls which injure the shoulder area. In the older population, the rotator cuff is weakened by age and may tear simply by lifting something relatively light.
In most instances, rotator cuff disorders are caused by the combination of normal life wear and tear and excessive usage. Years of its employment causes the tendons of the rotator cuff to become thinner and with age, their blood supply decreases. Furthermore, recurring movements of the arms above the head such as during sports activities or certain aspects of manual labor may lead to a variety of problems.
The most common symptoms of rotator cuff disorders are weakness and pain in the shoulders and the side and front of the upper arms. Depending on the severity of the damage or injury, the pain levels of rotator cuff disorders may range from mild and tolerable to severe and debilitating.
It is important to treat rotator cuff disorders as soon as possible otherwise the condition will only continue to deteriorate. In the very severe cases of disorders the sufferer may lose the use of his or her upper arm and shoulder.
The sequential steps in treating rotator cuff disorders include:
Immobility of the shoulder in never recommended as it can cause its joint to freeze. However, using it with utmost caution will give it the rest it needs for recovery. It is important to avoid movements that cause pain.
Depending on which feels better, applying hot or cold packs will promote increased blood circulation and therefore expedite the healing process.
Taking oral non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) will alleviate the pain and reduce the swelling and inflammation.
Physical therapy decreases pain and discomfort while strengthening the shoulder and helping increase its flexibility and range of motion.
To further increase the healing process, steroid injections directed into the injured area may be prescribed.
As a very last resort, when none of the other treatments resulted in relieved symptoms and when the patient is otherwise young and healthy, surgery may be suggested. Several months of physical therapy will need to follow such a surgery.