THE ROTATOR CUFF: FRIEND OR FOE?
The shoulder is an amazing
joint. It has a greater range of motion of any joint in the body and can be
In spite of this large range of motion, it is generally quite a stable joint.
The shoulder is capable of many complex and intricate actions that require power
as well as accuracy. For example, activities such as throwing a baseball or
swinging a golf club require a well functioning shoulder. The rotator cuff is
critical to normal function of the shoulder.
The rotator cuff is a series of
four muscles and tendons that lie deep inside of the shoulder. It helps maintain
the ability in the shoulder and is critical for accurate and pain-free function
of the shoulder. When the rotator cuff is weak, injured or torn, it can cause
pain in the shoulder area and occasionally radiating down the upper portion of
the arm. Sometimes this is pain with activity, such as swinging a golf club.
Sometimes it is pain at nighttime when sleeping. In addition, dysfunction of the
rotator cuff can lead to a shoulder bursitis or to difficulty using the arm and
doing certain activities.
Fortunately there are many
effective treatments for rotator cuff problems. Frequently some component of
pain is related to inflammation. Anti-inflammatory medicines or cortisone shots
can help a great deal with this pain. In addition, rest and ice are standard
treatments that can help with rotator cuff disease. Weakness is usually part of
the problem normal rotator cuff function. Sometimes if these treatments do not
solve the problem, additional tests might be indicated. These could include
X-rays, which might reveal a bone spur, or an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
that might show a rotator cuff tear. Another treatment option, which can be
quite beneficial, is surgery. Surgery might be indicated if a spur is causing a
great deal of inflammation or if a rotator cuff tear is causing significant
problems. In general, surgery is the only treatment that can actually reattach a
torn rotator cuff tendon to its original position.
In summary, the rotator cuff is
both a friend and a foe. When it functions normally it is essential to all of
our activities that involve shoulder motion. However, when it is weak, inflamed
or torn, it can cause a great deal pf pain. Generally this is quite treatable
and if you are having significant shoulder problems, consult your physician
regarding a diagnosis and treatment.
Presented as a public service by
the ISA Consultation Group.
February 23, 2001! By the ISA Consultation Group!