Rotator Cuff

The rotator cuff is comprised of four muscles within the shoulder and the connecting tendons linking the upper arm bone to the shoulder blade. Often confused with the "rotary cup" or "rotator cup", this structure firmly holds the humerus ball within the shoulder socket. Injuries to the rotator cuff, such as tendonitis (medically referred to as tendinitis) or tears, are quite prevalent and can stem from falls, improper weight training techniques, and repetitive overhead arm motions, like throwing, swimming, or reaching.

Among the rotator cuff muscles, the supraspinatus and infraspinatus are frequently affected. Issues with these muscles typically fall into two categories: tears of the tendons or muscles and inflammation of the tendons, known as tendinopathy or tendonitis. 

Acute Tears

Acute tears normally result from an abrupt, powerful movement. This tear will generally show these symptoms:

  • A tearing sensation in the shoulder, accompanied by severe pain in the arm 
  • Restricted movement in the shoulder from pain or muscle spasms
  • Tenderness across the point of rupture/tear
  • Inability to raise your arm laterally without assistance

Chronic Tears

This is a tear that occurs over time. Normally, this happens at or close to the tendon, resulting from the tendon rubbing on the overlying bone. This is often related to an impingement syndrome. A chronic tear will generally demonstrate these signs and symptoms:

  • Commonly seen on a patient’s dominant side
  • Typically affects patients over 40
  • Pain is more severe at night
  • Pain intensifies gradually over time eventually causing weakness
  • Inability over time to raise the arm to the side or do overhead activities

Surgical Vs. Nonsurgical Treatment

Your doctor will suggest treatments and focus on using nonsurgical options first and surgical options second if that is ultimately necessary.

Nonsurgical treatments include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Steroid injections

Surgical treatments include: 

  • Partial or complete shoulder replacement 
  • Rotator cuff repair
  • Subacromial smoothing (decompression)

Exceptional Shoulder Care at Appalachian Orthopedics

Our shoulder doctors all have extensive training, allowing them to provide exceptional care for all of your shoulder needs. They work with you to help you return to all the activities you love.

If your shoulder pain is keeping you from living an active life, schedule an appointment with one of our expert shoulder surgeons to diagnose and treat your shoulder issue by requesting an appointment online or calling one of our four locations: Abingdon, Bristol Regional Medical Center , Bristol Midway, or Johnson City.

For those acute shoulder injuries that can't wait to be seen, visit our Orthopedic Urgent Care at our Bristol Midway or Johnson City office.