The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that provide rotational movement and stability at the shoulder joint. It is comprised of the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis muscles that originate at the shoulder blade and insert their tendons into the humerus (the long bone of the upper arm). While the rotator cuff allows for rotational movement at the shoulder, it also provides a lot of stability in this highly mobile ball and socket joint. The rotator cuff musculature pushes the ball towards the socket and helps initiate the first 15 degrees of abduction motion. The rotator cuff is very important in the stability of the shoulder joint.
Rotator cuff injuries can vary in degree of severity. They can be acute and happen after a fall or trauma, or chronic and occur over time. The rotator cuff can develop tendinitis, can fray, or can become torn. Pain typically occurs along the front or side of the shoulder and can radiate down the side of the arm. Patients often present with pain reaching overhead or reaching behind them. In the incidence of a full thickness rotator cuff tear, patients may try to shrug their shoulder to activate arm movement or may not be able to abduct their arm out to the side at all.
If you have been experiencing shoulder pain, a thorough evaluation by an orthopedic specialist can help determine if the rotator cuff is involved. Xrays can show if there are any chronic changes and in severe cases can show if the ball is not sitting properly in the socket. Rotator cuff injuries can be seen on MRI or dynamic diagnostic ultrasound imaging. If you have been having shoulder pain or limitations in movement, contact Sports and Orthopaedic Specialist today for your shoulder evaluation.