Published: Sept. 26, 2011
Updated: Mar. 20, 2012
The rotator cuff is made up of four muscles (subscapularis, supraspinatus, infraspinatus, and teres minor) that help move and stabilize the shoulder joint. These muscles and their tendons connect your upper arm bone (humerus) with your shoulder blade (scapula).
Damage to any one these muscles or tendons is considered a rotator cuff injury. A rotator cuff injury is one of the most common shoulder injuries.
Falling, lifting, or repetitive activities using the arms (especially overhead movements), are common causes of rotator cuff injuries. Any sudden movements or repetitive stresses may cause a rotator cuff tear, bruising, swelling, or stress to the rotator cuff muscles and tendons.
Rotator cuff injury symptoms include:
A physical examination of the shoulder, with focus on its range of motion, enables the doctor to diagnose a rotator cuff injury or rotator cuff tear.
Your doctor may also use x-ray or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to rule out underlying conditions such as shoulder degenerative joint disease (shoulder arthritis) or other unrelated shoulder injuries.
Initially, the pain and discomfort associated with a rotator cuff injury may be alleviated with rest, cold compresses, and anti-inflammatory medicines.
Often, the foundation of treatment for rotator cuff injuries is physical therapy. In physical therapy, therapists teach patients rotator cuff exercises that strengthen the muscles and alleviate pain and other rotator cuff injury symptoms.
Other treatment options include:
At Duke, we treat rotator cuff injuries and other shoulder injuries at locations convenient to Raleigh, Durham, Cary, and Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Watch an educational video about rotator cuff injuries and learn about treatment options, including rotator cuff surgery.
At Duke Orthopaedics, our doctors often treat rotator cuff injuries with arthroscopic rotator cuff repair surgery. The following video demonstrates this procedure.