What’s a Rotator Cuff?

SITSThe four muscles that make up your rotator cuff are responsible for shoulder movements and maintaining shoulder joint stability.  And they can hurt like crazy when you mess them up.

The rotator cuff  (RC) describes a group of muscles in the shoulder that connects your upper arm (humerus bone) to your shoulder blade (scapula) and the supporting tendons that act to stabilize the shoulder. The four muscles of the rotator cuff are the Teres minor, Infraspinatus, Supraspinatus, and Subscapularis.

The set of muscles gets its name from the shape formed by the muscles as they attach to the humerus–it looks like a cuff on your shirtsleeve.

Because this muscle group is involved in so many actions, soreness, muscle strain and injury are common.   Here are the five most common conditions:

Tear: An injury tears a rotator cuff tendon that’s been weakened by age or wear and tear. Weakness in the arm (and usually pain) are the symptoms.

Tendonitis: Repetitive overhead use of the arms (such as painting or throwing) causes a painful strain injury. Rest, ice, and pain relievers are usually effective treatments.

Impingement: The tendons of the rotator cuff are squeezed between the humerus and a nearby bone called the acromion. Symptoms and treatment of impingement are similar to tendinitis.

Frozen shoulder: The humerus adheres to the shoulder blade, causing shoulder pain and stiffness. Symptoms usually resolve with time and exercise, or steroid injections.

Subacromial bursitis: Inflammation of the small sac of fluid (bursa) that cushions the rotator cuff tendons from a nearby bone (the acromion).

“Each year about 2 million people in the US visit a physician because of a rotator cuff problem.” AAOS (2013)

Treatments for RC conditions range from massage and physical therapy to cortisone injections, to surgery.  Our massage therapists are specially trained to deal with rotator cuff issues, so if this describes you, give us a call and we’ll see if we can help you out!