Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Shoulder FAQ

Question:

What is rotator cuff disease?

Answer:

The rotator cuff (RTC) is a group of four muscles and their tendons that surround the shoulder. The RTC forms an envelope around the shoulder joint to help support and move it. This structure also compresses the head of the humerus to hold it in the shoulder socket.

RTC disease can refer to any number of problems in the RTC. This could be a tendinitis, acute strain, or tear of one or more of the tendons. Rotator cuff tears can be partial-thickness or full-thickness depending on whether or not the tear goes all the way through the tendon. A full-thickness tear is also called a tendon rupture.

Making a correct diagnosis is often difficult. Using the term rotator cuff disease identifies the general (but not the specific) problem. Sometimes this term is used as a provisionaldiagnosis. Further imaging testing or arthroscopic exam is needed to identify the exact diagnosis. Michael C. Koester, MD, ATC, et al. The Efficacy of Subacromial Corticosteroid Injection in the Treatment of Rotator Cuff Disease: A Systematic Review. In Journal of American Orthopaedic Surgeons. January 2007. Vol. 15. No. 1. Pp. 3-11.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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