What Is A Shoulder Impingement and Rotator Cuff Tear?

Shoulder SurgeonShoulder injuries are often so complex that patients must see a shoulder surgeon for resolution. Damage to this joint can affect your life on the most basic levels, like dressing and hygiene, so caring for problems quickly is a must. Here’s what you’ll want to know about shoulder impingement and rotator cuff tears.


Your shoulder is complicated. Three bones create the joint; your humerus (upper arm), scapula (shoulder blade) and clavicle (collarbone). Supporting these are a series of tendons, ligaments, muscles and bursa (fluid filled sacs that reduce friction). One grouping of muscles and tendons is known as the rotator cuff, joining the humerus to the clavicle and giving the shoulder rotational ability. Without the rotator cuff, the shoulder would lack stability.

Shoulder Impingement

Impingement cases have a wide variety of causes. Motor vehicle accidents, inflammation and sports injuries are a few common culprits, but some cases have developed with no notable cause. Whatever the reason for the issue, the problem is the same — the shoulder’s bursa (acromion) and the rotator cuff do not have enough space to move when the arm is in certain positions. For most patients, the issue is noticed when he or she lifts the arm, resulting in pain. The acromion is “impinging” on the tendon and may prevent you from lifting any further.

Rotator Cuff Tear

Rotator cuff tears may be brought on by a combination of age and injury. This set of muscles is under frequent demand and break down with age, especially if you are an athlete who throws. After this continual break down, even a minor injury can tear the cuff. Pain is a major symptom of a rotator cuff tear, but it may also be accompanied by shoulder weakness. Often a rotator cuff tear must be repaired in the operating room by a shoulder surgeon.

The best protection against shoulder impingement and rotator cuff tears is to stretch daily. Ask your shoulder surgeon about specific exercises that may improve your shoulder health, and see your orthopedic doctor right away if you are experiencing shoulder pain.

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