Rotator Cuff: What is it?

Article by John Miller

Rotator Cuff Muscles

Your rotator cuff muscles hold your arm (humerus) onto your shoulder blade (scapula). Most of the rotator cuff tendons hide under the bony point of your shoulder (acromion), which, as well as protecting your rotator cuff, can also impinge on your rotator cuff structures.

The shoulder joint is a relatively unstable ball and socket joint. It is often likened to a golf ball on a tee. Your subscapularissupraspinatusinfraspinatus and teres minor are small muscles that stabilise and control your shoulder movement. Collectively, these four muscles are known as the rotator cuff.

What is your Rotator Cuff?

Rotator cuff syndrome is a prevalent shoulder injury. Your shoulder joint is a relatively unstable ball, and the socket joint is moved and controlled by a small group of four muscles known as the rotator cuff.

The subscapularissupraspinatusinfraspinatus and teres minor are your small rotator cuff muscles. These muscles stabilise and control your shoulder movement on your shoulder blade (scapula). As the name suggests, the rotator cuff muscles are responsible for shoulder rotation and form a cuff around the humerus’s head (shoulder ball).

Rotator Cuff Injury

Your rotator cuff muscles and tendons are vulnerable to rotator cuff tears, rotator cuff tendonitis, rotator cuff impingement, and related rotator cuff injuries.

Rotator cuff injuries vary. Medium severity injuries include acute or subacute rotator cuff tendon damage (rotator cuff tendinopathy). The lesser end is mild soft tissue pinching and catching (shoulder impingement), an inflamed subacromial bursa (shoulder bursitis). The more significant injury end of the spectrum is more longstanding tendon damage (calcific tendinopathy), a rotator cuff tear, or complete tendon rupture.

Rotator Cuff Treatment

Fortunately, most rotator cuff injuries respond to physiotherapy treatment that addresses how your shoulder moves, e.g. avoid clicking impingement positions. This treatment approach certainly helps short-term pain and long-term damage such as rotator cuff tears or repeat bursitis.

More significant injuries include partial and full-thickness rotator cuff tears, which may require rotator cuff surgery.

Some shoulder rotator cuff injuries are more common than others.

These include:

What Causes a Rotator Cuff Injury?

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