The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that hold the shoulder joint in place and help move the shoulder. The 4 muscles (and their tendons) that make up the rotator cuff are:
Rotator cuff injury is a strain or tear of the rotator cuff - the muscles and tendons that stabilise your shoulder. Injury often involves a tear to the rotator cuff tendons (the thick bands of tissue that connect the muscles to the bones), but sometimes the tear occurs in the muscle.
The most common site of a tear is in the supraspinatus tendon. Severe injuries can cause several of the tendons and muscles to tear.
Symptoms include pain and tenderness in the shoulder, pain on elevating the arm, weakness of the shoulder, and pain when sleeping on the affected side. Special movement tests can help your doctor determine which of the muscles or tendons has been torn.
Causes include falling on your arm, and repetitive overhead arm movements, such as in swimming, baseball, placing items on high shelves, painting and lifting. Poor posture can also contribute.
The mainstay of treatment includes resting the shoulder, anti-inflammatory medicines and special exercises and physical therapy. Steroid injections or surgery may be needed in severe cases.
Last Reviewed: 14 August 2009