There are a lot of scary words used to “explain” rotator cuff injuries, and most people have no idea what these big words actually mean.
Here’s some jargon free explanations to de-mistify it all, and help you understand what you’ve been told about your shoulder injury.
Tendon: This is a connective tissue structure that connects muscles to bones
Rotator cuff: Your rotator cuff is made up of 4 muscles (and their tendons) and are located around your shoulder joint connecting your arm to your shoulder blade and rib cage. Together they control your arm movement.
Full thickness tear: This generally describes the severity of a tear in one of your tendons. A tear can be partial or full thickness. A full thickness tear is a bit like having a ‘hole’ through the full thickness of your tendon, like you’ve poked a straw through the middle of the tendon, from the top surface all the way through to the bottom surface. The tear has gone the whole way through the tendon, but the tendon is still attached to both the muscle on one side, and the bone on the other.
Is that bad? You can still have full, pain free function with a full thickness tear, and many people aren’t even aware they have this problem, because they don’t feel pain.
Tendinopathy: This condition can develop when your tendon has:
1) a heavy compression load on it e.g. a heavy weight falls onto your ankle, or
2) a heavy tensile load e.g. you train significantly harder than you usually do, and the tendon isn’t strong enough to cope with the load
Bursitis: Bursitis literally means ‘inflammation of the bursa’. We all have many bursas around our body, and inflammation of the bursa’s in the shoulder and hip are most common.These are small cushion-like structures that help minimise wear and tear. For example, a bursa may sit between a tendon and a bone to reduce rubbing. Check out ‘What is shoulder bursitis?” here
I hope these explanations make your diagnosis a little less scary, and help you realise there’s a lot you can do to improve all these issues. For individual advice, please don’t hesitate to book in to see one of our physiotherapists. You can book online here