If you have injured or damaged your rotator cuff, you may have the following signs and symptoms:
- Dull, deep pain in the front and lateral (outer) part of the shoulder that may radiate to the upper arm
- Weakness in the affected arm
- Difficulty performing tasks that require lifting, pushing, overhead movements, or reaching your hand behind your head (such as combing your hair, throwing a basketball, or slipping your arm into a sleeve)
- Disturbed sleep due to dull aching pain
- The pain worsens on rest
- A locking or catching sensation during shoulder movements
- Swelling in the affected shoulder
Many individuals with rotator cuff injuries, however, may not exhibit any signs and symptoms. The severity of symptoms, when present, greatly depends on the severity of rotator cuff damage.
What is the rotator cuff?
The rotator cuff refers to the group of four muscles—supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis—and their tendons that provide strength during various shoulder movements and ensure shoulder stability.
All of these muscles arise from the shoulder blade (scapula), get attached to the upper part of the arm bone (head of the humerus), and form a cuff around the joint between the shoulder blade and humerus bone (glenohumeral joint).
The rotator cuff facilitates various types of movements, such as:
- Abduction (movement of the arm away from the body including overhead arm movements)
- Lateral rotation (outward rotation of the arm)
- Medial rotation (inward rotation of the arm)
The rotator cuff ensures that various movements of the upper body occur smoothly without affecting shoulder stability by allowing “fine-tuning” movements of the head of the humerus within the glenohumeral joint.
What causes rotator cuff damage?
Injuries or damage to the rotator cuff can be seen at any age, although the risk increases as you get older. Rotator cuff tears are more common in individuals older than 40 years of age than in younger individuals. Moreover, people who have a family history of shoulder issues are more likely to have rotator cuff injuries. Other factors that may contribute to rotator cuff damage are poor posture and smoking.
In younger individuals, most rotator cuff injuries occur due to trauma, such as during sports (such as football and baseball), road traffic accidents, and falls.
Rotator cuff damage is commonly seen in individuals involved in occupations requiring repetitive movements at the shoulder joints, such as painters, carpenters, athletes, masons, and mechanics.
The rotator cuff may undergo various degenerative changes (wear and tear of muscle and tendon fibers) with age. Additionally, these changes may occur due to reduced blood supply to the rotator cuff with increasing age.
People with poor posture or those involved in repetitive shoulder movements may develop degenerative changes at a younger age. Sometimes, sharp bone growth or spur may form on top of the shoulder. Bone spur formation is usually seen in older individuals and may rub against the rotator cuff during shoulder movements leading to degenerative changes.
What are the various rotator cuff injuries?
Various injuries may affect the rotator cuff, with the most common including:
- Rotator cuff tears: Due to tearing of the muscle or tendon fibers in the rotator cuff
- Impingement syndrome: Occurs when the rotator cuff gets squeezed and rubbed against a bone
- Rotator cuff tendinitis: Irritation and inflammation of the rotator cuff tendon
- Rotator cuff tendinopathy: Chronic irritation or degeneration of the rotator cuff
Top How Do I Know If I Have Damaged My Rotator Cuff Related Articles
Are There Any Exercises for a Rotator Cuff Injury?Here are three effective exercises to help you recover from your rotator cuff injury.
What Is the Best Exercise for a Rotator Cuff Injury?Rotator cuff exercises can help relieve shoulder pain, strengthen your muscles, and improve flexibility. Here are 5 of the best exercises for rotator cuff injuries.
Can a Torn Rotator Cuff Heal on Its Own?Most rotator cuff tears cannot heal on their own unless the injury is minor. Some need medications and physiotherapy, whereas most require surgery.
Shoulder Impingement SyndromeShoulder impingement syndrome occurs due to repeated overhead activities and causes pain and discomfort in the shoulder. Check out the center below for more medical references on chronic pain, including multimedia (slideshows, images, and quizzes), related disease conditions, treatment and diagnosis, medications, and prevention or wellness.
Frozen ShoulderIt's got nothing to do with cold weather. It means your shoulder is jammed up. WebMD guides you through the causes of frozen shoulder and what you can do about it.
Rotator Cuff Tear and InjuryRotator cuff injury is damage to any of the four tendons that stabilize the shoulder joint. Shoulder pain and tenderness are common symptoms. Rotator cuff disease treatment depends on the severity of the shoulder injury.
Sports Injuries: Types, Treatments, and PreventionWeekend warriors and professionals alike all experience sports injuries. See how to prevent strains, sprains, and tears with proper form, stretching, and more.
Sprains and StrainsAn injury to a ligament is called a sprain, and an injury to muscle or tendon is called a strain. Sprains and strains may be caused by repetitive movements or a single stressful incident. Symptoms and signs include pain and swelling. Though treatment depends upon the extent and location of the injury, rest, ice, compression, and elevation are key elements of treatment.
What Are the Symptoms of a Torn Tendon in the Shoulder?Symptoms of a shoulder tendon tear or rotator cuff tear may include dull pain, tenderness, swelling, weakness, or stiffness.
Tendinitis and Tendon Injuries: How It's Diagnosed?Tendons are flexible bands of thick tissue that connect your muscles to bones. They help to move the muscles or bones of your shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip, knee, and ankle joints.
What Are Shoulder Muscles Called?Shoulder muscles are required for movements of the upper limb. They also give the shoulders their characteristic shape. The shoulder has multiple muscles. Shoulder muscles include the intrinsic muscles or scapulohumeral group, including the deltoid, teres major and four rotator cuff muscles. The extrinsic shoulder muscles are the trapezius, latissimus dorsi, levator scapula and rhomboids (rhomboid major and rhomboid minor).
What Are the Most Common Shoulder Injuries?The shoulder injury is an injury to any of the structures in the shoulder joint, including bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and cartilages. Shoulders are easily injured because they have a complex structure that provides a wide range of motion. They are the most mobile joints in the body and consequently, the most unstable.
What Is the Most Painful Shoulder Injury?As a rule, a fracture is often the most painful shoulder injury, followed by other conditions of the nerves and tissues of the shoulder joint.