Rotator cuff syndrome is a damage to the supporting part of the shoulder called rotator cuff which is actually a cluster of different tendons and muscles that allows you to lift arms and reach above the head. When shoulders are overused and extreme movements are being done repetitively, the rotator cuff muscles easily become subject to injuries and traumas due to excessive friction. This will surely cause pain and discomfort but the syndrome can be detected and handled at its early stages to prevent further damage to the structure of your shoulder.
People who are more susceptible to getting a rotator cuff syndrome are usually those who frequently raise hands with weight. These people may include painters, welders and weight lifters. Incidents amongst young people are usually caused by direct injuries of the rotator cuff. The occurrence in older people is mostly caused by the normal wear and tear of the rotator cuff muscles including shoulder muscle degeneration. The arm that is usually affected by this syndrome is the patient’s dominant arm.
Proper diagnosis is needed to assert the actual condition. The medical history may be obtained so that the physician is able to check if there are any related injuries that may have caused the syndrome in the first place. Other risk factors should also be investigated so that the medical team can pinpoint the actual cause of the condition. The physician would certainly check where the pain is felt, its onset, characteristics, alleviating and aggravating factors. The pain from rotator cuff syndrome starts at the shoulder and gradually radiates to arms and sometimes the neck. The pain that the patient feels may considerably increase especially when the arm is being raised above the head. The pain may also come at nighttime. Muscle weakness of the affected arm may be additionally encountered. After taking up a complete health history, the doctor will conduct a thorough physical exam which will begin with inspection for any presence of redness, inflammation, edema and any other issues. Tenderness may be palpated. Grating and clicking sounds may also be heard when the patient tries to move and rotate the shoulders.
X-ray images will then be taken by the radiologists to check for the extent of the injury. Reviewing the images may also help the physician rule out other problems with joints or bones in the shoulder. MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is useful to detect the extent of tearing and degeneration. Arthrography can also be performed since it will have greater imaging capabilities than a normal x-ray. A computed tomography (CT) scan can also be done to diagnose the presence of rotator cuff syndrome.