The rotator cuff is a set of four muscles (Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus, Subscapularis, and Teres Minor) that lie over the humeral head in the shoulder that help provide shoulder stability. These muscles can become inflamed and produce shoulder pain. The pain tends to be:
- Generally worse at night or after activity
- Shoulder motion causes pain and is limited
- More common in athletes who do a lot of throwing
- More common in older individuals (over 50)
If the pain is severe, it can be difficult to distinguish between rotator cuff tendinitis and a cervical radiculopathy. Tendinitis may be associated with a rotator cuff tear, which can be diagnosed with either an MRI scan or an arthrogram of the shoulder.
Treatment includes conservative treatment to decrease pain and inflammation, improve muscular coordination, identify and correct underlying causes and finally to strengthen the rotator cuff. If a tear is present, surgery may be necessary to repair the torn muscle/tendon. In many cases, there may be bursa involvement (subacromial bursa) which can cause bursitis and there also may be underlying issues in the cervical and thoracic spine (neck and upper back) which needs to be identified and corrected.