What are the complications of rotator cuff injuries when treatment is delayed?

Updated: Oct 25, 2018
  • Author: Gerard A Malanga, MD; Chief Editor: Craig C Young, MD  more...
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When treatment is delayed in rotator cuff injuries and shoulder discomfort persists, the patient can develop symptomatic stiffness of the GH joint, which is called adhesive capsulitis. In this condition, the patient consciously or subconsciously limits the use of the shoulder because of pain, leading to the development of soft-tissue tightness or stiffness in one or more planes. The chance of developing adhesive capsulitis can be minimized through prompt diagnosis of painful problems in the shoulder, such as rotator cuff injuries, and the institution of early shoulder ROM as part of the rehabilitation program.

Severe supraspinatus and infraspinatus muscle atrophy is often associated with massive rotator cuff tears, but an underlying entrapment of the suprascapular nerve should always be considered. Symptoms of suprascapular nerve entrapment include shoulder pain that is described as a deep dull ache localized to the posterolateral aspect of the shoulder. Weakness of the shoulder and arm is common, with visible wasting and atrophy of the supraspinatus and infraspinatus and normal bulk in the deltoid. Clinical differentiation of suprascapular nerve entrapment from rotator cuff injuries may be difficult, especially if both are present simultaneously. EMG is the single most helpful test for diagnosing this condition.

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