When you’ve injured your rotator cuff, it means you’ve injured one or more of the muscles, tendons or the joint capsule that stabilises your shoulder. Often this involves a tear within one of the tendons. The result is pain, weakness, stiffness, difficulty elevating your arm, and a very painful nights sleep when you accidentally roll over onto the injured shoulder!
So, what is the rotator cuff?
The rotator cuff is the name for the muscles, tendons and joint capsule that work to stabilise your shoulder. They’re the reason it’s easy to move your arm up and around, why your shoulder joint doesn’t pop out of its socket, and why you can only move your shoulder so much – because anything beyond a certain point will cause instability, pain and make you susceptible to injury. If we’re going to get technical, the four stabilising muscles are called:
- – Supraspinatus
- – Infraspinatus
- – Teres minor
- – Subscapularis
How did I injure my rotator cuff?
There are two main types of causes for rotator cuff injuries. The first is from accidents and trauma. This could be taking a tackle to the shoulder of falling on your arm.
The second is overuse and degeneration. Simply put, you’ve been overusing the muscles and over time they’ve weakened and degenerated. If you’re fairly young, it’s likely that your overuse will come from high intensity, regular sporting activity, such as bowling in cricket or swimming. For those in our later years, it is more likely to be the long years of actively using your shoulder that has caused slow, steady changes over time. We see a higher prevalence of rotator cuff tears in occupations such as home painting and those that require stacking on shelves.
Other causes include:
- – Rotator cuff impingement
- – Decreased blood supply
- – Shoulder bursitis
- – Poor posture
What does it feel like?
Pain and tenderness around the shoulder, specifically at the top of the shoulder and down the outside of the upper arm, is a big sign. You’ll also notice weakness when you try to elevate and move your arm at the shoulder joint – like your arm feels abnormally heavy. Your shoulder may also feel stiffness and difficulty moving the joint.
This means you’ll have difficulty with everyday tasks liking getting food down from the higher shelves of your pantry, grabbing your wallet out from your back pocket, fastening your bra, and grabbing your seatbelt.