The rotator cuff is a group of tendons that allow the muscles to lift and rotate the bone of the upper arm. The location of the tendons under the shoulder blade make them very vulnerable to damage.
Damage to the rotator cuff can be caused by an injury such as a fall. It can also be damaged by overuse, poor circulation around the cuff, and/or a gradual weakening of the shoulder tendons. As people age, it is normal for the rotator cuff tendon to wear and degrade, resulting in a painful, weak shoulder.
With a damaged rotator cuff, it may be difficult and/or extremely painful to lift or rotate the arm with the same range of motion as before the injury. Pain is also very common at night, often radiating down the arm.
A physician may prescribe therapy to strengthen the muscles and provide pain relief. In some cases, the physician will recommend a rotator cuff repair. This involves stitching the torn tendon onto its attachment to the arm bone. After the repair, the physician will prescribe therapy to assist with shoulder mobility, pain relief and strengthening.