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 up Each year, millions of people in the U.S. 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?

Symptoms may be a bit different for each person. Symptoms may include:

  • Pain that keeps coming back, especially when doing certain things such as lifting over your head
  • 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 seem like other conditions or health problems. Always talk with your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How is a rotator cuff injury diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will take a complete health history and do a physical exam. You may also have diagnostic tests such as:

  • X-ray. This test uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to make images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film.
  • MRI. This test uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to make detailed images of organs and structures within the body.

MRI Scan

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

How is a rotator cuff injury treated?

Treatment will depend on your symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.

Treatment may include:

  • Rest
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Strengthening and stretching exercises
  • Ultrasound therapy
  • Corticosteroid shot (injection)
  • Surgery (for severe injuries or tears)

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