Rotator Cuff Disease

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

  • Medical Editor: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.

Take the Pain Quiz

What are rotator cuff disease symptoms and signs?

The most common symptom of rotator cuff disease is shoulder pain. The pain is often noticed gradually and may be first noticed even a day after the actual event that may have caused the injury. Sometimes, a sudden pain occurs during a sport activity. The pain is usually located to the front and side of the shoulder and is increased when the shoulder is moved away from the body. The pain is usually noted to be more intense at nighttime and sometimes increases when lying on the affected shoulder. The pain can diminish range of motion and movement of the arm. The inflammation from the rotator cuff disease and the lack of movement due to pain can result in a frozen shoulder. There can also be tenderness in the area of the inflamed tendons of the injured rotator cuff.

People with rotator cuff disease usually find it difficult to lift the arm away from the body fully. If the rotator cuff disease involves severe tears of the rotator cuff tendons, it can be impossible for the patient to hold the arm up because of pain and decreased function of the tendons and muscles.

How do health-care professionals diagnose rotator cuff disease?

Rotator cuff disease is suggested by the patient's history of activities and symptoms of pain in the shoulder described above. In making a diagnosis, the doctor can observe increased pain with certain movements of the shoulder. The pain is due to local inflammation and swelling in the injured tendons of the rotator cuff. Additionally, with severe tendon tears of the rotator cuff, the arm falls due to weakness (positive drop arm sign) when moved away from the body.

The diagnosis of rotator cuff disease can be confirmed by radiology testing. Sometimes X-rays can show bony injuries, which suggest long-standing severe rotator cuff disease. An arthrogram involves injecting contrast dye into the shoulder joint to detect leakage out of the injured rotator cuff. The MRI is a noninvasive imaging test that uses a magnet and computer to produce detailed images of the tissues of the shoulder. An MRI has the added advantage of providing more information than either X-ray or an arthrogram, especially if a condition other than rotator cuff disease is present.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/16/2015

Subscribe to MedicineNet's Newsletters

Get the latest health and medical information delivered direct to your inbox!

By clicking Submit, I agree to the MedicineNet's Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of MedicineNet's subscriptions at any time.

VIEW PATIENT COMMENTS
  • Rotator Cuff - Injury

    How did you injure your rotator cuff?

    Post View 12 Comments
  • Rotator Cuff - Cause

    Was the cause of your rotator cuff disease due to repetitive strains? Please share your experience.

    Post View 6 Comments
  • Rotator Cuff Disease - Symptoms

    What were your symptoms that led to a diagnosis of rotator cuff disease?

    Post View 1 Comment
  • Rotator Cuff Disease - Treatment and Exercise

    What kinds of treatment were effective for your rotator cuff disease? Did you have physical therapy?

    Post View 1 Comment

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors