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  • Writer's picturejacob sciacca

Rotator Cuff injuries

The rotator cuff comprises four muscles and their interconnected tendons, crucial for shoulder stability and movement. It ranks as the third most prevalent musculoskeletal pain site, following the lower back and knee. Surprisingly, it has the most significant impact on both mental and physical well-being. Despite seeking initial medical consultation, up to half of patients continue to report persistent pain six to twelve months later.


Rotator cuff related shoulder pain (RCRSP) is a broad term encompassing various conditions such as tendinopathy, tendinitis, tears, and impingement. These issues constitute a significant portion of shoulder pain cases and warrant exploration for better understanding.


Anatomy-wise, the rotator cuff wraps around the shoulder joint, linking the upper arm (humerus) and the shoulder blade (scapula). Comprising four muscles — subscapularis, supraspinatus, infraspinatus, and teres minor — these structures are intricately interconnected. Despite their individual actions, they function synergistically. The tendons merge into one structure, forming a cohesive unit with specific fusion points. Additionally, bursae in the shoulder contribute to symptoms associated with rotator cuff issues.


Historically, impingement, involving pinching between the rotator cuff and the acromion (part of the shoulder blade), was a commonly held explanation for shoulder pain. However, recent studies challenge this notion. Pain patterns and the location of tears suggest impingement may not be the primary cause. Surgeries targeting impingement have shown limited benefits compared to exercise therapy or placebo surgery.


Diagnosing rotator cuff-related shoulder pain involves a thorough assessment to rule out other causes and assess factors contributing to recovery. Imaging, while sometimes helpful, isn't always necessary for diagnosis or management.


Various factors, including excessive loads, psychosocial aspects, age, and lifestyle, contribute to shoulder pain development. Understanding the interplay between the shoulder's capacity and the loads it encounters is essential in managing symptoms.


Exercise therapy stands as the primary intervention for RCRSP, showing significant efficacy in reducing pain and improving function. Management approaches may vary depending on the irritability of symptoms, with load management playing a crucial role.


In conclusion, rotator cuff-related shoulder pain is common but typically responds well to gradual exercise-based physiotherapy. Despite structural changes, favourable recovery outcomes are achievable with appropriate management over time.

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