Rotator Cuff Injuries – Common Causes & Treatment Types

The muscles and tendons of your rotator cuff are protected by your bones, ligaments and the bursa (lubricating sac). However, if any of these elements suffer a hard knock, bump or injury, your muscles or tendons could get trapped and compressed, leading to impaired or painful shoulder movements. 

  • Risk Factors: Rotator cuff related trauma could be the result of 
    • An injury to the shoulder 
    • Progressive degeneration of the tendons, usually seen after the age of 40 
    • A family history of rotator cuff injuries
    • Repeated activity or movements that stress or damage the shoulder tendon. Professions, such as carpentry or house painting, or sports, such as baseball, archery or tennis, may pose a greater risk, simply due to the nature of arm and shoulder movements involved. 
  • Common Types of Injuries: There are several types of trauma that may cause rotator cuff injuries, including:
    • Inflammation of the tendon – Tendonitis
    • Inflammation of the bursa – Bursitis
    • Formation of a bone within the rotator cuff tendon – Calcific Tendonitis
    • Partial or Full tears in the muscles, ligaments or tissues that form the cuff
  • Usual Symptoms: While your symptoms may vary due to the type of injury, here are a few signs that may suggest you have a rotator cuff injury:
    • Pain or clicking when you bring your arm above your shoulder height, or behind your back or head
    • Pain that extends from your shoulder to your elbow 
    • Pain while attempting to lift or reach out for something, such as a seatbelt
    • Continuous shoulder pain in a resting position (in more severe cases)
  • Diagnosis and Treatment: A physiotherapist or sports doctor will be able to diagnose a rotator cuff injury on the basis of your clinical history, as well as from tests, such as ultrasound scans or MRIs. X-rays are not usually helpful to detect cuff trauma. Based on a diagnosis of the exact nature of the injury, your physical therapist may recommend a specific number of sessions that aim to:
    • Reduce the inflammation and provide immediate pain relief 
    • Regain full range of shoulder movement
    • Restore the strength of your rotator cuff to prevent future injuries

Your rotator cuff muscles help you control your shoulder movements and prevent the joint from dislocating. Seek timely treatment if you experience any of the symptoms mentioned earlier, and don’t ignore chronic pain. Do not try self-treatment by resting your arm for extended periods of time because that could lead to a painful condition, called frozen shoulder (thickening of the tissue that connects and encloses the joint).

If you or a loved one needs physical therapy, look no further than Medical Rehabilitation Centers of Pennsylvania (MRCP). Take advantage of our licensed physical therapists, professional, patient-focused approach and range of physical therapies that address various injuries and illnesses. We offer comprehensive root cause diagnostics, customized treatment plans and efficient restoration of mobility and function. 

For physical therapy treatments in the Greater Philadelphia area, contact MRCP. Visit us at the location of your choice, or complete our online form and we will get back to you soon. 

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