Definition of Rotator Cuff Impingement Syndrome

Rotator cuff impingement syndrome – A chronic overuse condition involving the rotator cuff, a group of muscles and tendons in the shoulder that stabilizes the shoulder joint—the glenohumeral joint where the humerus (long bone of the upper arm) joins the upper part of the scapula (shoulder blade)—during elevation of the arm.

The rotator cuff is vulnerable to strains ranging in severity from minor stretching of the tissues to significant tears. The resulting inflammation constricts, or impinges, the ability of the shoulder to move through its full range of motion. Osteoarthritis may also inflame the joint with the same consequence.

The doctor’s examination includes a series of movements designed to elicit specific results that are relatively conclusive for rotator cuff impingement. However, other conditions can produce similar symptoms. Computed tomography (ct) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (mri), or arthroscopy may be necessary to confirm the diagnosis.

Most rotator cuff impingement symptoms respond to conservative treatment that includes hot or cold to the shoulder, nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), injection with corticosteroid medicationsphysical therapy, and rest with limited exercises to maintain flexibility and function of the joint.

Adhesive capsulitis, in which the tissues fuse together within the joint, is a major risk of immobilizing the shoulder. Though most people recover from an episode of symptoms without residual complications, rotator cuff impingement syndrome tends to be chronic, with repeated aggravation setting off new cycles of symptoms.

See also ATHLETIC INJURIES; MUSCLEREPETITIVE MOTION INJURIESSPRAINS AND STRAINS; TENDON.

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