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Rotator Cuff Disorders

Rotator Cuff Disorders

The rotator cuff is a group of tendons and muscles located in the shoulder that can become inflamed, irritated or damaged. When it gets irritated or damaged, it may cause a variety of disorders of this area. Rotator cuff disorders include inflammation of the tendons, impingement, calcium buildup of the tendons, and tears in the tendons of the rotator cuff.

Types of Rotator Cuff Disorders

There are four main types of rotator cuff disorders that involve irritation or damage of the rotator cuff. Calcium Buildup – A build-up of calcium in the tendons of the rotator cuff can cause a condition called calcific tendinitis which is often very painful. Inflammation of the Tendons – Also called tendinitis or bursitis, inflammation of the tendons or bursa are very common rotator cuff disorders. The bursa is the fluid-filled sac located between the tendons and the bones. Impingement – Another rotator cuff disorder is called impingement, which occurs when one of the tendons is squeezed hard and rubs against a nearby bone. Tear of the Tendons – Lastly, there may be a partial or full tear of the rotator cuff tendons which is the final rotator cuff disorder.

Causes of Rotator Cuff Disorders

There are usually a combination of causes leading to one of the above rotator cuff disorders. It might be from normal wear and tear where the damage is slow and gradual as you age, often made worse by people with certain physical activities that might use your shoulder more often such as sports. Overuse can also lead to a rotator cuff disorder, such as swimming, playing tennis, painting houses, or other motions. Both of these very often cause impingement, where the tendon rubs against the nearby bone. This will cause irritation and damage in the tendon which ultimately leads to inflammation and possible bleeding. Heavy force can cause a tear in the tendon such as from a motor vehicle accident, fall, or a sport.

Symptoms of Rotator Cuff Disorders

The main symptoms of rotator cuff disorders include weakness and pain felt in the shoulder. The pain might be on the side and front of the upper arm as well as the shoulder and can make it difficult to do just simple, everyday tasks if you don’t get treatment for it.

Diagnosing and Treating Rotator Cuff Disorders

To diagnose a rotator cuff disorder, your doctor will need to perform a physical examination followed by tests such as an x-ray, MRI, or ultrasound of the shoulder. Treating a rotator cuff disorder usually includes resting and icing the shoulder, and taking an anti-inflammatory drug to reduce the inflammation and swelling as well as reduce the pain. Occasionally, physical therapy is incorporated into treatments but surgery is extremely rare.
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