Rotator Cuff Injury

Rotator cuff injury may include tendinitis, strain, or tear of the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff is made up of muscles and four separate tendons that fuse together to surround the shoulder joint.

  • Causes


    Causes of a rotator cuff injury include:

    • Direct blow to the shoulder area
    • Falling on an outstretched arm

    • Chronic degenerative wear and tear on the tendons:

      • Arthritis may decrease the space for the tendons
      • Chronic instability of the humerus may traumatize the tendons

    • Repetitive overhead motion of the arm such as in:

      • Swimming
      • Baseball (mainly pitching)
      • Tennis

  • Definition

    Rotator cuff injury may include tendinitis, strain, or tear of the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff is made up of muscles and four separate tendons that fuse together to surround the shoulder joint.

    Rotator Cuff Injury
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  • Diagnosis

    The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. The doctor will carefully examine your shoulder. You will be asked to move your shoulder in several directions.

    Tests may include:

    • Ultrasound
    • Arthrogram
    • MRI
    • Arthroscopy

  • Prevention


    To reduce your chances of getting a rotator cuff injury:

    • Avoid overhead repetitive motion
    • Limit duration of work that involves
      • Moving hands above shoulders
      • Using shoulder in extreme outward rotation
      • Vibrating tools
    • Avoid heavy lifting
    • Exercise regularly to strengthen the muscles around the shoulder joint

  • Risk Factors


    A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition.
    Risk factors for a rotator cuff injury include:

    • Age: 40 or older
    • Heavy lifting
    • Abnormalities of the shoulder, or in rotator cuff anatomy or function
    • Activities that involve repetitive overhead arm motion such as throwing or work related
    • Weakened shoulder muscles from inactivity or previous injury

  • Symptoms

    • Recurrent, constant pain, particularly when reaching overhead
    • Pain at night that prevents you from sleeping
    • Shoulder muscle weakness, especially when lifting the arm
    • Popping or clicking sounds when the shoulder is moved
    • Limited range of motion in the shoulder joint

  • Treatment

    The treatment will depend on the extent of your injury, level of pain, and amount of immobility. The first step is usually a nonsurgical approach.


    If you are diagnosed with a rotator cuff injury, follow your doctor's
    instructions.