Definition of Rotator Cuff

What is the Rotator Cuff of the Shoulder?

Woman Putting Hair In Poney Tail
The rotator cuff is the group of muscles and tendons surrounding the shoulder. EVOK/M.Poehlman/Getty

The rotator cuff is the name for the tendons that surround the shoulder joint. The rotator cuff is actually a group of four muscles and their tendons that wraps around the front, back, and top of the shoulder joint.

The rotator cuff is often misidentified as the:

  • Rotary Cuff
  • Rotary Cup
  • Rotor Cup
  • Rotator Cup

The proper name is: rotator cuff. The rotator cuff is the name given to these tendons that often become injured and inflamed causing shoulder pain.

Rotator Cuff Problems

Unfortunately, a rotator cuff injury is not an uncommon problem, and these injuries make many routine activities difficult and painful. The rotator cuff is part of this mechanism that, when healthy functions very well, but when injured can be a difficult and frustrating problem.

The most common rotator cuff problems are:

Treatment of Rotator Cuff Conditions

The good news for patients is that the vast majority of rotator cuff problems never require invasive or surgical treatments.

  The majority of rotator cuff conditions can be treated with much more simple treatments.  However, it is important to know the right steps for treatment from your shoulder condition.

Non-Surgical Treatments for the Rotator Cuff: As stated, the vast majority of rotator cuff injuries, including tears, can be managed with non-surgical treatments.

  While sometime surgery may be necessary, most often simpler treatments will be tried first.

Surgery for Rotator Cuff Tendonitis: In situations where nonsurgical treatment does not alleviate symptoms of rotator cuff tendonitis, a surgery to remove inflammation and bone spurs may help to reduce symptoms.

Surgery for a Tear: Options for surgical treatment of a rotator cuff tear include traditional open surgical procedures, as well as newer, less-invasive arthroscopic surgical treatment options.

Bottom Line

No matter what you call it, rotator cuff injuries must be managed individually.  Each patient has different symptoms, different pathology, and different expectations.  While we may group patients together broadly (they have a rotator cuff tear), deciding on the best treatment depends on a variety of factors that must be individualized to each patient.  Even though two patients may have a similar problem, they may decide on very different management approaches.  Once you know the cause of your shoulder pain, you can discuss the best treatment option with your doctor.

Common Misspellings: Rotary Cuff, Rotary Cup, Rotor Cup, Rotator Cup

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