The rotator cuff is comprised of the muscles and tendons that surround the top of the upper arm bone (humerus) and hold it in the shoulder joint.
There is a bursa (sac) between the rotator cuff and acromion that allows the muscles to glide freely when moving. When rotator cuff tendons are injured or damaged, the bursa often becomes inflamed and painful. An injury may result suddenly from a single traumatic event or develop gradually because of repetitive overhead activities.
Treatment for a rotator cuff tear will depend on the injury and the patient's need for pain relief, movement and function. In most cases, the initial treatment is non-surgical.
- Rest: If the tear is due to overuse, resting the shoulder may help.
- Physical Therapy: The goals of a physical therapy program include strengthening the rotator cuff tendons; stretching and regaining lost motion caused by pain and inflammation; and reducing compression of the bursa.
- Medication: Anti-inflammatory medication may be prescribed to help reduce pain and inflammation.
- Steroid Injection: If symptoms have not improved with physical therapy and medication, a doctor may recommend a steroid injection into the bursa to control pain and inflammation.
- Ultrasound: Ultrasound can enhance the delivery of topically applied drugs.
Arthroscopic, mini-open (combination of arthroscopic and a small incision) and open surgical approaches can be used to repair rotator cuff tears. Sometimes a tissue transfer or a tendon graft is used. Joint replacement may be performed if significant arthritis is present in the shoulder joint.
Strengthen wrists and arm, shoulder, neck and back muscles to help protect and decrease stress on your shoulders. Do stretching and range-of-motion exercises for your arms and shoulders. All of this can help prevent shoulder-related problems and injury.