Even while being one of the most used muscle groups in the body, many people don’t understand what the rotator cuff is or how it works– inadvertently increasing their risk of injuring it.
What is the Rotator Cuff?
The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint and hold it together. It works to keep your shoulder joint stable, and allows you to lift and rotate your arm in multiple directions. You can think of it as a kind of “cushion” for your shoulder joint. The rotator cuff is composed of four muscles: supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis, and teres minor. These muscles work together to help the shoulder move in multiple ways: abduction (raising your arm away from your body), flexion (moving your arm forward), extension (backward movement of the arm), and internal rotation or external rotation (turning outward or inward).
How Does it Get Injured?
When these four muscles become injured, it is called a rotator cuff tear. These tears can range from minor to major, depending on the extent of damage to the muscles and tendons. Minor tears are typically caused by repetitive motion or overuse, while major tears normally occur due to sudden injury. Signs and symptoms of a rotator cuff tear include pain when moving your shoulder in certain directions, reduced range of motion, and weakness in your arm.
Rotator cuff tears can be treated in a variety of ways, depending on the severity. Non-surgical methods include rest, physical therapy, PRP therapy, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). In cases where the tear is severe or does not respond to non-surgical treatment, surgery may be recommended. Surgery usually involves repairing the torn muscle or tendon, or removing scar tissue from the area.
Fall sports like football, volleyball, and cheerleading are particularly prone to rotator cuff injuries. As these sports involve repetitive motion of the shoulder joint, athletes are at greater risk of developing tears. It is important for athletes to take preventive measures such as stretching and strength training to ensure their shoulders remain healthy. If you experience any discomfort in the shoulder area, don’t hesitate to contact Dr. Strasburger today to schedule a consultation.
By understanding the anatomy and function of the rotator cuff, you can help treat (and prevent) future shoulder injuries. Knowing the signs of a tear or strain can also help you diagnose issues early on and seek appropriate medical attention if necessary. To ensure the longevity of your shoulders, it is crucial to prioritize the well-being and strength of your body. Take proactive measures now to maintain their health for years to come!