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Rotator Cuff Injury

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:

  • rest
  • nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications
  • strengthening and stretching exercises
  • ultrasound therapy
  • corticosteroid injection
  • surgery (for severe injuries)