The Rotator Cuff consists of a group of muscles namely, Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus, Sub-scapularis, and the Teres minor. These muscles form a cuff around the head of the humerus articulating it to the scapula. The cuff is, therefore, responsible for the rotation of the shoulder joint. A rotator cuff injury may occur to any of the four muscles comprising the cuff. It is, however, rare for all the muscles to be injured simultaneously. The supraspinatus tendon is the most vulnerable to injury. This is due to repeated compression against the underside of the acrimony process. The compression facilitates tissue degeneration of the tendon eventually resulting to tearing of the muscle fibers (Lowe, 2009).
Injury to the rotator cuff occurs under strenuous activities, which involve repeated rotation of the arm, above the head. It is, therefore, more likely to occur in sports such as tennis which involve repetitive arm swinging in the above position (Lowe, 2009).
The main cause of the injury is the fact that the muscles, especially the supraspinatus pass underneath a bone, the acromion process, which has a narrow separation. During the rotation of the arm in overhead positions, the tendon becomes continually compressed against the acromion process resulting to tissue degeneration and eventually fiber tearing occurs (Lowe, 2009).
Pain when lifting the arm in level with the shoulder or overhead, pain in the interior of the shoulder, and pain during the night are symptoms of injury to the rotator cuff. The injury may occur as a partial thickness tear where the tendon becomes minorly torn, or a full thickness tear which is the serious form of injury to the cuff. Intense pain during the night and pain in the deep interior of the shoulder occurs under severe injury (Bowers and Stark, 2010).
First aid for the injury aims at reducing inflammation and managing the pain. Patients, therefore, apply ice packs every three to four hours for twenty minutes to reduce pain in the shoulder. Over-the-counter drugs, such as ibuprofen, help reduce swelling, and pain (Bowers and Stark, 2010).
Under partial injury, an athlete takes six weeks to recover and resume playing status. Severe injury takes months to heal. Under some circumstances, repairing a torn rotator cuff may require surgery (Bowers and Stark, 2010).
The most effective way of preventing injury to the rotator cuff is by strengthening the shoulder blade. An athlete becomes prone to shoulder injuries when the scapula fails to perform its function well. Strengthening the shoulder blade can be done through basic exercises such as wall push-ups, shoulder rolls and presses (Bowers and Stark, 2010).
Lowe, W. (2009). Orthopedic massage: Theory and technique. Edinburgh: Mosby.
Stark, C. D., & Bowers, E. S. (2010). Living with sports injuries. New York: Facts On File.