The rotator cuff is a tendinous structure that surrounds and covers the shoulder joint. It is composed of the tendons of four muscles: the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis, which attach to the head of the humerus. These tendons function as stabilizers of the joint and allow for rotational movements and elevation of the arm.
Damage to the rotator cuff tendons is one of the main injuries that occur in the shoulder joint. It is commonly caused by trauma or chronic degenerative changes in the tendons. This condition can affect a wide range of age groups.
Causes of rotator cuff tendon damage
In young individuals, direct trauma such as a fall on the shoulder (e.g., during skiing) or indirect trauma resulting from excessive force or leverage on the shoulder joint, as well as repetitive overhead movements (e.g., basketball, tennis, swimming), are the main causes of rotator cuff tendon damage. In individuals who do not participate in sports but engage in occupations requiring continuous arm elevation, similar types of injuries can occur.
In older patients, most cases of tendon damage result from a combination of microtrauma, overload, and degenerative changes in the tendons and muscles, leading to weakening and eventually damage.
However, the highest-risk group consists of patients over 40 years of age.
Depending on the etiology, symptoms of rotator cuff tendon damage can appear suddenly due to trauma or gradually worsen over time. The most significant symptom is shoulder pain, which occurs most often during arm elevation or sudden movements, and the pain may intensify at night. Patients may also experience limited range of motion in the joint and weakness in the arm, such as the inability to hold the arm parallel to the ground. Sensations of clicking and crepitus in the joint may also be observed.