What is a rotator cuff? We all hear about injuries to the “rotator cuff” but what is it, what does it do, how do we injure it and how do we fix it? The rotator cuff is located in the shoulder joint and is comprised of the following muscles, teres minor, infraspinatus, supraspinatus and subscapularis. These muscles connect the top portion of the humerus to the scapula, or shoulder blade. Together these muscles help the shoulder joint internally and externally rotate.
There are many different ways to injure a rotator cuff. Injury can occur from over use of the shoulder in either a repeated motion or simply over time. It is a common injury in throwing athletes, baseball and softball players, as well as swimmers and football players. We are also prone to injuring our shoulder simply by falling and trying to catch ourselves with an outstretched arm. There are different types of injuries that the shoulder can suffer from. The rotator cuff can become impinged, or it can be partially torn or completely torn. Another common shoulder injury is adhesive capsulitis, or a frozen shoulder. This occurs when the joint itself no longer is able to move pain free. The tissues around the joint have stiffened and possible scar tissue has formed, limiting motion and making it painful to try and use the shoulder.
When someone injures their rotator cuff, sometimes they report feeling and/or hearing a pop in their shoulder, followed by pain. The pain may last only for a moment or linger. Others may have shoulder pain for a period of time and let it build up until they can no longer stand it and then seek treatment. Some symptoms of a shoulder injury are weakness, and an inability to sleep on the injured shoulder. One may also notice snapping and cracking with movement. There may also be pain trying to move the shoulder in certain directions and performing certain activities after a tear has occurred.