Shoulder Rotator Cuff Disorders
As the shoulder is one of the most complex and used joints in the body, it’s susceptible to a number of common injuries. Shoulder rotator cuff disorders are particularly common and consist of three main conditions including subacromial impingement, rotator cuff tears and calcific tendonitis. Below, you’ll discover more about each type of disorder and its characteristics.
Whenever you lift up your arm, the humeral head, or upper arm bone, is pushed underneath the acromion (roof of the shoulder). If the rotator cuff is impacted by overuse, or a minor tear is present, the humeral head won’t move correctly, causing it to shift closer to the acromion. It is this impingement which leads to the pain felt within the shoulder.
Subacromial impingement is also referred to as subacromial pain syndrome and bursitis.
Rotator cuff tears
The rotator cuff is the formation of muscles and tendons that surround the joint of the shoulder, keeping the head of the upper arm bone within the socket of the shoulder which is very shallow. The rotator cuff is highly susceptible to injury, with tears being particularly common. If a tear does occur, not only can it become extremely painful, but it can also cause problems with weakness of the arm.
Tears can vary in severity, with minor, partial thickness tears to full thickness tears. Patients who experience a minor tear may not even feel any symptoms and these tend to be the most common types of tears experienced. However, interestingly, smaller tears can be much more painful than larger ones. So, the amount of pain experienced isn’t necessarily a sign of the severity of the tear.
In order to diagnose a rotator cuff tear, an MRI scan or ultrasound scan will need to be carried out.
Occasionally, calcium can develop within the tendon of the rotator cuff, leading to a painful condition called calcific tendonitis. This can potentially place additional pressure onto the tendon, while also causing a chemical irritation.
This condition can be very painful, and its cause isn’t actually known. However, it is known to sometimes disappear on its own without the need for treatment and it’s more commonly experienced by those aged 30 to 60 years old. In some cases, the build-up of calcium can affect the movement of the rotator cuff, leading to Subacromial Impingement.
Rotator cuff causes and symptoms
All of the rotator cuff conditions above can occur at any age, for a variety of reasons. Most commonly, you’ll experience a rotator cuff disorder due to injury or overuse of the shoulder. For patients over 40, the condition is often caused by a fall onto the arm, while overuse injuries are common in athletes.
The main symptom with any shoulder injury is pain. You’ll typically experience pain around the injury site, as well as throughout the arm when it’s moved. It is also common for the pain to become worse during the night which can greatly impact your sleep. You may also notice reduced movement within the shoulder or arm, along with clicking noises when the shoulder is moved.
Golfers and Tennis Elbow
Even those who haven’t experienced the conditions themselves are generally aware of the term’s golfers and tennis elbow. However, many are unaware of how the two conditions differ. Both conditions relate to an injury of the tendon which attaches the muscles of the forearm to the elbow bone. However, it’s the location of the injury which separates the two.
Tennis elbow, medically referred to as lateral epicondylitis, occurs in the tendons which are attached to the outer part of the elbow. These are responsible for straightening the fingers, along with extending the wrist backwards.
Golfers elbow, medically referred to as medical epicondylitis, occurs in the tendons which are located on the inner side of the elbow. These tendons are responsible for contracting the fingers and flexing the wrist.
You don’t need to be a tennis player or a golfer to experience these conditions. They are most commonly caused by repetitive strain. So, any job or activities you partake in which place strain onto the tendons can also cause these conditions.
Symptoms for both conditions are similar, it’s largely the location of the symptoms which differ. Golfers elbow will result in symptoms being experienced on the inside of the elbow, while tennis elbow symptoms will appear on the outside. These symptoms include:
The pain will either radiate from the inside or outside of the elbow. With both conditions, you’ll also experience pain as you attempt to twist or grip things. The only symptom to really differ is with golfer’s elbow you can also experience numbness within the little or ring fingers.
The effects experienced with golfers and tennis elbow can range from inflammation, through to partial or full tears of the tendon attachments. They also tend to occur gradually, with symptoms worsening over time.
There is a range of biological treatment options available at our Regenext Clinic, which helps t0 avoid surgery and we would be delighted to discuss which would be the most appropriate for you. Please click on the Get in Touch button and our friendly and responsive team will be delighted to chat.