What causes a rotator cuff injury?

There are many types of rotator cuff injuries. Here are some of the more common types.

  • Tendonitis/Bursitis - This is overuse of the rotator cuff muscles. It is essentially doing too much activity involving the shoulder in too short of an amount of time. Inflammation of the rotator cuff tendons and the overlying bursa is the cause of the pain.
  • Impingement - This is a mechanical issue where the rotator cuff muscles get caught, or pinched, in between two pieces of bone ( the humeral head and the underside of the acromion) when the shoulder is raised. Initially inflammation is involved, but with time degenerative changes can occur. This can be related to muscle weakness, fracture, or anatomical differences in the surrounding bone.
  • Tendonosis - This is chronic change or degeneration of the rotator cuff tendons. It can be caused by tendonitis that did not heal or impingement that is not treated.
  • Rotator Cuff Tears - In younger patients, this is generally caused by some sort of trauma. Common ways are falling on an elbow or falling and grabbing on to an object, like a stair rail for support, but there are many ways of doing this, especially when sports are involved. In older patients, this can result from comparatively more mild trauma or just age related to chronic tendonosis. Many patients over the age of 65 have rotator cuff tears, but not all have pain.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.