The #@%*$; rotator cuff

The human shoulder joint

The amazing shoulder (Image courtesy of Wikipedia)

What is the rotator cuff anyway? We hear a lot about it these days, from injured quarterbacks  in the news, to your neighbor down the street who tore his falling on the ice. Prior to MRI being widely available, we heard very little about tears of this offending musculo-tendonous group, because there was no good way to image it, and no easy surgery to fix it. Most people did not even know they had a rotator cuff, and many still don’t, if the names I hear it called are any indication. People describe it to me as anything  from the “rotator cup” to “rotary cup”, to just plain “rotatory cut.”

So what is the rotator cuff? It’s the group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint, and make it possible for the shoulder to move in all the amazing directions that it does, otherwise known as flexion, extension, abduction, adduction, internal rotation and external rotation. Basically north, south, east, west and everything in between. When our rotator cuff is working properly, we don’t notice it at all. But should it become strained, pinched or torn, we’re acutely aware due to pain and/or loss of movement.  I recently strained my rotator cuff (it was a combination of Yoga class and weight lifting) and spent a miserable week or so nursing it back to health. I tried all the traditional and nontraditional methods I knew to put it right, because when you can’t lift your arm, can’t sleep and can’t get dressed without help, you’re ready to try just about anything. I did manage to get it better and have sworn off Yoga class for now, but am back to biking, weight lifting and climbing, but trying to be a little more reasonable about it.

In the next  few days I’ll explore the pesky rotator cuff a little more, hopefully to help us all understand it better, and know what to do if it’s injured.

Addendum: I just found out my problem is calcific tendonitis of the rotator cuff. So, I’m going to stop treating it myself and get some expert consultation, hopefully nipping it in the bud before any more chronic problems develop.  (Don’t want anything to keep me from climbing or biking now do I?)

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18 thoughts on “The #@%*$; rotator cuff

  1. Funny you should mention the rotator cuff. I’ve been going to PT to fix mine. During the winter when I couldn’t get out to run because of snow and ice, I was doing a very simple indoor exercise tape and injured myself with a…wait for it…five-pound dumbbell. Yes, you read that right. At first I didn’t even realize it. I thought I had just overdone it. But three months later, as my arm was starting to weaken because I wasn’t using it fully, I got my butt to a doctor. Luckily, it’s a very minor issue and is already feeling much better with just 2 weeks of PT.

    • That’s good news Margaret. I always worry about rotator cuffs a bit until I see them improving. They are finicky buggers. Glad you’re on the mend. Watch out for those 5-pound dumbells from now on. 😉

  2. Glad you are on the mend. I knew the right term for rotator cuff. I just had no clue where it was, vaguely thinking it must be around the wrist (cuff – get it?). That was an interesting little post, but of course the picture spoke a thousand words. NOW I know where it is. Thanks 🙂

    • Thanks. I am hoping to finish off the story with one more post, but haven’t felt like writing anything else technical right now. Funny, because when I started this blog I intended for most of it to be technical.

  3. I had a frozen shoulder (as the doc told me) once and boy was it bad. After a non-invasive procedure and a cortizone injection in the shoulder I had to start the next morning with physical therapy for 3 months.

  4. Rotator cuffs are vitaly important…..without it, how would I lift my skittles bags up to my mouth? You better get well soon…..or else! 🙂

  5. Pingback: More on the #@%*$; rotator cuff: Part II | Huffygirl's Blog

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