Rotator cuff injury and inflammation is one of the most common causes of shoulder pain. There are three common conditions that can affect the rotator cuff: rotator cuff tendonitis, rotator cuff impingement syndrome and a rotator cuff tear. Most people with rotator cuff problems can be successfully treated by a combination of rest, painkillers, anti-inflammatories, physiotherapy and steroid injections. Surgery is sometimes an option.
The shoulder joint
There are three bones in the shoulder region, the clavicle (collar bone), the scapula (shoulder blade) and the humerus (upper arm bone). The scapula is a triangular-shaped bone that has two important parts to it: the acromion and the glenoid. The three bones in the shoulder region form part of two main joints:
- The acromioclavicular joint between the acromion of the scapula and the clavicle.
- The glenohumeral joint between the glenoid of the scapula and the humerus.
There are also a number of muscles, ligaments and tendons around the shoulder. Ligaments are fibres that link bones together at a joint. Tendons are fibres that attach muscle to bone.
What is the rotator cuff?
The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that are positioned around the shoulder joint. The muscles are named:
- Teres minor
The rotator cuff muscles work as a unit. They help to stabilise the shoulder joint and also help with shoulder joint movement. The four tendons of the rotator cuff muscles join together to form one larger tendon, called the rotator cuff tendon. This tendon attaches to the head of the humerus (the bony surface at the top of the upper arm bone). There is a space underneath the acromion of the scapula, called the subacromial space. The rotator cuff tendon passes through here.
What are the types of rotator cuff injury/inflammation?
There are a number of different problems that can affect the rotator cuff and lead to rotator cuff injury or inflammation. The most common problems include:
- Rotator cuff tendonitis
- Rotator cuff impingement syndrome
- Rotator cuff tear