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Jul 20, 2022

How to Tell If You are Suffering from a Rotator Cuff Injury

Rotator cuff tears aren't just a problem for professional sports. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, rotator cuff tears are one of the most prevalent shoulder injuries, affecting around 2 million people each year. In addition to providing the shoulder joint with the stability needed to reach, pivot, lift, and "stay place" during motions (particularly while reaching and lifting), the rotator cuff is made up of a linked "network."

Injuries to the shoulder's rotator cuff

The most common cause of rotator cuff tears is a direct impact from a fall, especially if you land on your arm that is extended. Imagine that you're about to fall, and you instinctively reach for your arm to protect yourself. If that's the case, all of that stress will be directed onto your arm and shoulder joint, potentially leading to cuff tendon ruptures and injury to your upper arm (called the humerus).

This can lead to a long-term injury to the cuff due to repetitive tension and strain on tendons and the joint itself. Small tears can emerge as the tendon wears, causing the tendon to become thinner and more vulnerable to harm. Tendons that are injured or weaker are more prone to tearfully or partially, even if the impact or activity is minor. When the tendons are already vulnerable, even simple acts like swinging a golf club or tennis racket or throwing or hitting a ball might result in a tear.

Finally, bone spurs, which are tiny growths of bone along the shoulder joint, can cause some tears. Inflammation and injury can occur due to the formation of hard bumps that can inflame and damage the tendons in the area, making them more vulnerable.


Rotator cuff injuries can cause a wide range of symptoms, from mild to severe. Let's take a look at three forms of rotator cuff disorders and the symptoms they cause:

A severe tear

As a general rule, acute rotator cuff tears are characterized by the following symptoms:

  • Excruciating discomfort that radiates from the upper shoulder blade to the elbow.
  • Excruciating pain from muscle spasms and blood clots.
  • With large tears, you will be unable to move your arm much due to the loss of muscle power and substantial pain.
  • Inability to sleep because of pain that gets worse at night
  • A gradual decline in strength accompanied by an increase in pain
  • Decreased range of motion in some directions of the arm
  • Difficulty lifting your arm above your shoulder.

Rotator cuff tendinitis

This condition is most common in women between 35 and 50. Among the symptoms are:

  • Excruciating pain in the upper portion of your shoulder.
  • As time goes on, the affected region may become more tender.
  • When you elevate or rotate your arm, the pain gradually gets worse.


Doctor will examine your injury history and do a physical evaluation on the affected shoulder to determine if you have a rotator cuff issue. When you visit doctor, he'll measure your muscle strength and flexibility. Additionally, he'll check how you move and whether or not it causes you to shoulder pain. The following tests are also at his disposal:

  • You may want to have an X-ray to examine whether your upper arm bone is invading the space for your rotators.
  • MRI to acquire a clear picture of your rotator cuff.
  • Ultrasound imaging of the soft tissues of your shoulder, such as muscles and tendons.
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