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The shoulder is an amazing joint. It has a greater range of motion of any joint in the body and can be moved 360. In spite of this large range of motion, it is generally quite a stable joint. The shoulder is capable of many complex and intricate actions that require power as well as accuracy. For example, activities such as throwing a baseball or swinging a golf club require a well functioning shoulder. The rotator cuff is critical to normal function of the shoulder.

The rotator cuff is a series of four muscles and tendons that lie deep inside of the shoulder. It helps maintain the ability in the shoulder and is critical for accurate and pain-free function of the shoulder. When the rotator cuff is weak, injured or torn, it can cause pain in the shoulder area and occasionally radiating down the upper portion of the arm. Sometimes this is pain with activity, such as swinging a golf club. Sometimes it is pain at nighttime when sleeping. In addition, dysfunction of the rotator cuff can lead to a shoulder bursitis or to difficulty using the arm and doing certain activities.



Fortunately there are many effective treatments for rotator cuff problems. Frequently some component of pain is related to inflammation. Anti-inflammatory medicines or cortisone shots can help a great deal with this pain. In addition, rest and ice are standard treatments that can help with rotator cuff disease. Weakness is usually part of the problem normal rotator cuff function. Sometimes if these treatments do not solve the problem, additional tests might be indicated. These could include X-rays, which might reveal a bone spur, or an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) that might show a rotator cuff tear. Another treatment option, which can be quite beneficial, is surgery. Surgery might be indicated if a spur is causing a great deal of inflammation or if a rotator cuff tear is causing significant problems. In general, surgery is the only treatment that can actually reattach a torn rotator cuff tendon to its original position.



In summary, the rotator cuff is both a friend and a foe. When it functions normally it is essential to all of our activities that involve shoulder motion. However, when it is weak, inflamed or torn, it can cause a great deal pf pain. Generally this is quite treatable and if you are having significant shoulder problems, consult your physician regarding a diagnosis and treatment.




Presented as a public service by the ISA Consultation Group.



Copyright February 23, 2001! By the ISA Consultation Group!