Why does a torn rotator cuff happen,
and how are they treated?
The movement of the arm and the shoulder is controlled by a group of
four muscles called the rotator cuff. This group of muscles is attached
to the shoulder blade and then inserted to the upper part of the humerus.
They control the way in which the arm is internally and externally rotated
and how it is lifted up and down. At the end of each muscle is a tendon
that attaches to the bone. Tears in these tendons are called rotator cuff
tears, and they are a common cause of shoulder pain and weakness.
Bone Spurs that rub on the tendons of the rotator cuff can
weaken the tendons.
When the tendon tears, it pulls away from the bone of the arm.
The rotator cuff is frequently injured in several
Frequent use of the hands in the overhead position can weaken the
rotator cuff and eventually lead to tears in the tendons. Certain
athletes, like baseball pitchers, and overhead workers like painters
and sheet-rock workers frequently develop tendinitis. This causes
inflammation, pain, and tenderness in the cuff. Over time, the wear
and tear on the rotator cuff can lead to a tear in one of the tendons.
A direct blow to the shoulder, a fall onto an outstretched hand,
or a dislocated shoulder joint can also result in a tear of one
of the rotator cuff tendons. This type of tear would be called a
As we age, so
does the rotator cuff. A process of natural wear and tear breaks down
the strength and flexibility of the rotator cuff tendons, which can
lead to a complete rupture of one of the tendons. This type of a tear
would be called a "degenerative tear."
A torn rotator cuff can be treated very successfully by a combination
of physical therapy, exercises and shoulder surgery (if necessary). Each
of these options has a very important role in the treatment of a torn
rotator cuff, but before we discuss them, we will first discuss the shoulder
anatomy of the rotator cuff, and why some tendons are more easily injured
than others are.
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