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.
Symptoms of a Rotator Cuff Injury
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
- muscle weakness
The symptoms of a rotator cuff tear may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.
Diagnosis of a Rotator Cuff Injury
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, radio frequencies, 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.
Treatment for a Rotator Cuff Injury
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
- ultrasound therapy
- corticosteroid injection
- surgery (for severe injuries)