Rotator Cuff Injury

What is a rotator cuff injury?

Your rotator cuff consists of muscles and tendons that hold your shoulder in place. It is one of the most important parts of your shoulder.

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Your rotator cuff allows you to lift your arms and reach upward. Each year, millions of people in the United States go to their healthcare providers because of a rotator cuff problem. A rotator cuff tear is a common cause of pain and disability among adults.

What are the symptoms of rotator cuff tear?

The following are the most common symptoms of a rotator cuff tear. However, you may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Recurrent pain, especially with certain activities
  • Pain that prevents you from sleeping on your injured side
  • Grating or cracking sounds when moving your arm
  • Limited ability to move your arm
  • Muscle weakness

The symptoms of a rotator cuff tear may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always talk with your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How is a rotator cuff injury diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and physical exam, diagnostic procedures for a rotator cuff injury may include the following:

  • X-ray. A diagnostic test which 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.

MRI Scan

A rotator cuff may tear partially or fully. Partial-thickness tears do not completely sever the tendon from the shoulder.

How is a rotator cuff injury treated?

Your healthcare provider will determine the specific treatment for a rotator cuff injury, based on:

  • Your age, overall health, and medical history
  • Extent of the condition
  • Your tolerance for specific medicines, procedures, or therapies
  • Expectations for the course of the condition
  • Your opinion or preference

Treatment may include:

  • Rest
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines
  • Strengthening and stretching exercises
  • Ultrasound therapy
  • Corticosteroid injection
  • Surgery (for severe injuries)

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