The rotator cuff consists of muscles and tendons that hold the shoulder in place. It is one of the most important parts of the shoulder. The rotator cuff allows a person to lift his or her arms and reach up. An injury to the rotator cuff, such as a tear, may happen suddenly when falling on an outstretched hand or develop over time due to repetitive activities. Rotator cuff tears are also due to aging.
The following are the most common symptoms of a rotator cuff tear. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
Recurrent pain, especially with certain activities and at night
Pain that prevents sleeping on the injured side
Grating or cracking sounds when moving the arm
Limited ability to move arm
The symptoms of a rotator cuff tear may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.
In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for a rotator cuff injury may include the following:
X-ray. A diagnostic test that uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). A diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body.
A rotator cuff may tear partially or fully. Partial-thickness tears do not completely sever the tendon from the shoulder.
Specific treatment for a rotator cuff injury will be determined by your doctor based on:
Your age, overall health, and medical history
Extent and duration of the condition
Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
Expectations for the course of the condition
Your opinion or preference
Treatment may include:
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications
Strengthening and stretching exercises
Surgery (for severe injuries)