The Rotator Cuff is a group of four muscles that surround the Shoulder Joint: Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus, Teres Minor and Subscapularis. They are relatively small but play an important role in stabilising the shoulder.
A tear of the Rotator Cuff can occur with repetitive movements such as swimming, painting, and tennis amongst others. This type of tear is usually partial and not a complete rupture. It can have a gradual onset over time. A partial tear of the Rotator Cuff can also have a Tendinopathy present in the tendon (What is Tendinopathy?).
Symptoms of a Rotator Cuff Partial Tear or Tendinopathy of the Rotator Cuff can include pain, decreased range of movement, difficulty lying on the shoulder at night or pain in the upper arm.
A thorough History and Physical Examination by your Chartered Physiotherapist will determine the likelihood of a Rotator Cuff Tear or Rotator Cuff Tendinopathy. If the examination shows an obvious Tendinopathy then a series of exercises and advice will be prescribed. These exercises will be progressive in nature to help the healing process. Shockwave Therapy should be considered in the case of Rotator Cuff Tendinopathy.
If a Rotator Cuff injury has been present for a significant period of time and is not responding to exercises and treatment, an MRI scan may be requested to determine the extent of the injury and if surgery is required. Rotator Cuff Tear surgery usually involves repairing the tear by stitching it back together and removing some bone that may be rubbing on it.
Following any surgical procedure, a protocol of rehabilitation exercises needs to be closely followed to give the best outcome.
MyPhysio’s thoughts on Rotator Cuff Tendinopathy and Rotator Cuff Tear
Interestingly, if you are female and over 50 years old you have a very high chance of having a Rotator Cuff Tear even if you have no pain. There are scientific studies showing that people who have no shoulder pain have Rotator Cuff Tears and Tendinopathy as seen on MRI. With this knowledge, we don’t rush to get MRI scans. A lot of Rotator Cuff injuries can be managed well with education and strength and mobility exercises. Unless, there is marked dysfunction on the Initial Consultation or no significant progress within a month then a MRI scan would be requested and onward referral to an Orthopaedic Consultant with an interest in Rotator Cuff Tendinopathy and Rotator Cuff Tears.
If you have any queries regarding Rotator Cuff Tendinopathy, please ‘Ask the Expert’.