How to Deal With Rotator Cuff Pain
The shoulder is made up of three bones: humerus (upper arm bone), scapula (shoulder blade), and clavicle (collarbone). The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint. The ball of the humerus fits into a shallow socket of the scapula to form a joint. The clavicle meets the highest point of the scapula to form the AC joint.
The humerus is held in place by a network of four muscles and tendons called the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff attaches the humerus to the scapula and helps lift, rotate and stabilize the arm. A lubricating sac called a bursa allows the rotator cuff tendons to glide freely when moving the arm.
Causes of Rotator Cuff Pain
When the rotator cuff tendons are injured or damaged, the bursa can also become irritated. This combination causes pain and weakness of the affected arm. Daily activities, like combing hair or getting dressed, may become painful and difficult.
Degeneration of the rotator cuff naturally occurs with age and can result in a tear. Individuals who perform repetitive lifting or overhead activities are at risk for rotator cuff tears.
Signs and Symptoms of a Torn Rotator Cuff
The most common symptoms of a rotator cuff tear include:
- Pain at rest and at night, particularly if lying on the affected shoulder
- Pain when lifting and lowering the arm or with specific movements
- Weakness when lifting or rotating the arm
- Crepitus or crackling sensation when moving the shoulder
A rotator cuff tear may become larger over time. So when suffering with chronic shoulder and arm pain, see an orthopedic specialist for diagnosis and treatment. After discussing symptoms and medical history, a licensed, board-certified orthopedic expert at Direct Orthopedic Care (DOC) will examine the shoulder to check for a possible rotator cuff tear. Other tests, X-ray, MRI, or ultrasound, may be ordered to confirm the diagnosis.
Most tears can be treated nonoperatively to relieve pain and increase strength. Individuals who fail to improve with nonoperative management may require rotator cuff repair surgery.