What Happens When Your Rotator Cuff is Damaged?

Most individuals, as they go about their busy day and engage with those around them, ignore certain aches and pains they may experience in their body. "It's something that happens when the body gets older," they exclaim as they push through the sensation of being uncomfortable. Although some situations simply are random instances of discomfort, certain pains, particularly those in the shoulder, can be a telltale sign of something more severe. If an individual notices that their pain has chronic behavior -- meaning it's persistent throughout each day -- this could be an underlying injury pertaining to the rotator cuff.

Most of these injuries occur in athletic practitioners such as baseball players, football, hockey, tennis, wrestling and even in the delicate movements of ballet dancing. However, the average person can sustain significant damage to their cuff through various movements that they take throughout their waking hours. Located below is a brief explanation of how the rotator cuff works in the body, why it's important to keep it healthy and a brief Q&A that sheds more light on the situation. For those readers that may be suffering with this particular problem, or feel they have permanent damage, knowledge is available.

The Role of the Rotator Cuff

The basic anatomy of the rotator cuff is a collection of four muscles that work in unison within an individual to give full range of motion to the arm. When healthy and operating efficiently, patients can fully extend their arms without pain, throw a ball with ease, lift heavy weight and engage with their children without discomfort. The collection of these muscles entails the Supraspinatus (the muscle that sits above the shoulder blade), the Infraspinatus (the muscle that sits on the backside of the body on the upper back), the Teres Minor (the muscle responsible for maintaining fluidity throughout various movements) and the Subscapularis (the muscle on the front of the body behind the rib cage that connects to the humerus). The collection of these muscles is responsible for creating an easy-to-perform motion that many individuals take for granted. Should someone have a damaged or torn rotator cuff, they may experience the following symptoms and side effects:

  • Aching within the shoulder tissue.
  • Loss of strength or grip power.
  • Difficulty performing tasks that require overhead movement.
  • Pain when lying on the affected shoulder.
  • Numb or tingling sensation that originates in the shoulder.

These contributing factors may be a warning sign of something more severe. Should a person experience these side effects on a persistent basis, making an appointment with a healthcare physician is the next logical step to take. From here, a doctor can prescribe medications, therapy, treatments and surgery in more severe instances.

Questions and Answers

Q: How painful is a rotator cuff injury?

A: The degree of pain in which a patient experiences is completely reliant on the type of injury. Minor injuries may feel like a dull ache located deep in the shoulder while full-tear damage may render the entire limb immobile.

Q: Will I need surgery?

A: Most rotator cuff problems can be alleviated through a means of heating pads, physical therapy, over-the-counter remedies and refraining from physical activity until symptoms subside. However, surgery is, without a doubt, the best cure for more severe injuries that have taken place in a patient's shoulder.

Q: Who's at risk?

A: Luckily, rotator cuff injuries are rare and are generally experienced by athletes on the field. The people that are most commonly associated with these injuries, in a general sense, are baseball players and workers that require overhead movements.

Q: Can I still perform basic tasks?

A: For individuals that do not have a full tear in their rotator cuff, movement may be limited in motion but not entirely impossible. Avoiding overhead movements is critical for the patient.

Q: I have arthritis, am I at risk for injury?

A: The patients that suffer from arthritis-related ailments -- specifically osteoarthritis -- are generally at a greater risk for rotator cuff problems.

Q: How will my doctor find out if I've damaged my rotator cuff?

A: A healthcare professional will generally diagnose these problems by placing pressure on the joint and taking note of the patient's reaction.

Q: Will I need physical therapy after my surgery?

A: Yes, patients that undergo surgery are highly recommended to perform physical therapy to ensure the safety of the join.

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