September 13, 2017
Shoulder pain is a common complaint we see on a daily basis. Pathology (or disease) is often found in the rotator cuff. Remember, that the main shoulder joint is a ball (the humoral head) and a socket (the glenoid). The rotator cuff is a group of tendons that attach to the ball and function to help us lift our arms above our head. Therefore, like many of our other tendons, the rotator cuff is prone to getting varying degrees of disease, which in turn causes patients pain.
Rotator cuff disease exists along a spectrum. Meaning, that on one end of the spectrum is just some tendinitis and bursitis in the cuff. On the other end of the spectrum is full thickness rotator cuff tearing. To greater or lesser degrees, all rotator cuff disease exists somewhere along that spectrum.
Evaluation and diagnosis is then focused on figuring out if there is rotator cuff disease, and where on that spectrum it lies. Most rotator cuff disease can be treated conservatively with physical therapy, NSAIDs, and injections. However, if a full thickness tear is suspected or patients do not get better with conservative measures, an MRI may be ordered and surgical intervention may be warranted.
To learn more: Rotator Cuff Tears on the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons Patient Info Site