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What Is a Rotator Cuff Injury?

The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that surround and stabilize the shoulder joint, helping to keep the upper arm bone securely positioned within its socket. An injury to the rotator cuff can occur either suddenly through direct trauma, such as a fall onto an outstretched arm, or gradually due to age-related degeneration. Because the rotator cuff can also become strained or torn through overuse, these types of injuries often affect individuals who repeatedly perform overhead motions, such as pitching a baseball or swinging a tennis racquet.

What are the symptoms of a rotator cuff injury?

A rotator cuff injury may cause a dull ache deep within the shoulder. The resulting pain may make it difficult to sleep on the affected side of the body. Usually, the discomfort worsens with certain movements, such as reaching backward or raising the arm overhead. Other symptoms may include:

  • A cracking or popping sound (crepitus) when moving the affected arm
  • A catching or locking sensation in the shoulder
  • A reduced range of motion in the shoulder and arm
  • Shoulder joint stiffness that worsens with inactivity
  • Muscle weakness in the affected arm
  • Swelling and tenderness at the front of the shoulder

How is a rotator cuff injury treated?

Rest, activity modifications and ice applications can be helpful for reducing mild pain. If further relief is needed, some common treatment options for a rotator cuff injury include:

  • Physical therapy – Targeted stretches and exercises can increase the flexibility and strength of the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint.
  • An injection – If the pain is interfering with sleep or daily activities, a cortisone injection into the shoulder joint can provide temporary but lasting pain relief (because injections can potentially weaken the rotator cuff, they should be used judiciously).
  • Surgery – An extensive rotator cuff tear may require surgical repairs, such as a tendon graft or joint replacement.

At Advanced Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine of Houston, Texas, we provide a full range of conservative and surgical treatments for rotator cuff injuries. When necessary, our board-certified and double-board-certified surgeons perform arthroscopic rotator cuff repairs as well as shoulder stabilization procedures, minimally invasive shoulder replacements, Latarjet operations and other procedures to address various conditions affecting the shoulder.

If you’d like to explore your treatment options for a rotator cuff injury with a shoulder specialist at Advanced Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine of Houston, TX, contact us to schedule an appointment.