What are the root causes of Rotator Cuff Injuries?

What is a Rotator Cuff?

The term "Rotator cuff" is used to describe a group of four miniscule muscles that actually keep your shoulder in its shallow socket while much larger muscles are used to move it. Strains and injuries to the rotator cuff are the most likely cause of shoulder problems, accounting for 4.5 million doctor visits per year. Injuries are labelled by the how much damage was done ("partial tears", "full thickness tears" or "ruptures"). A "partial tear"is used to describe you shoulder when one side of your tendon has been partially frayed. A "full thickness tear", sometimes called a "complete tear", describes a hole or a slit in your tendon, much like what would be created by using a knife to cut length-wise down a rope. A "rupture" is the most serious and dangerous injury, because it means that your tendon has been torn into two pieces so be sure to seek help right away!

What causes a Rotator Cuff injury?

Less than 10% of rotator cuff tears are the result of a severe injury like falling, pushing, pulling, throwing or lifting. The majority of these injuries are the result of repetitive overused muscles over a long period of time. One very common reason that patients develop a rotator cuff tear is something called "impingement". Impingement means, the area where your rotator cuff tendon attaches has become too crowded and the rotator cuff tendon is being pinched each time you lift your arm(s). The people who repeat overhead activities have a greatest risk for impingement and rotator cuff tendon problems. This includes athletes who play baseball, volleyball, tennis, rowing, weight lifting, swimming and archery, and jobs that include carpentry, painting, wall paper hanging, cleaning windows and washing/waxing cars. Other known risk factors for rotator cuff problems include smoking, obesity, high cholesterol and prior cortisone injection. 

Impact of a Rotator Cuff Injury

Most patients who have suffered with a critical rotator cuff injury often report a "tearing" or "snapping" sensation accompanied by severe pain and weakness. Most chronic pains begin silently with symptoms becoming more apparent as the tear progresses. Pain often gathers at the front and just outside of your shoulder but can sometimes radiate down your arm. Symptoms are usually made worse by overhead activity and may progress to the point that you have difficulty raising your arm overhead. Pain is often worse at night, especially when you lie on the affected shoulder. Be sure to tell us if you suffer from severe neck pain, shortness of breath, chest pain or chest pressure.