Rotator Cuff Injury

(Rotator Cuff Tear; Impingement Syndrome)


Rotator cuff injury may include tendinitis, strain, or tear of the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff is made up of muscles and 4 separate tendons that fuse together to surround the shoulder joint.
Rotator Cuff Injury
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Causes of a rotator cuff injury include:
  • Direct blow to the shoulder area
  • Falling on an outstretched arm
  • Chronic degenerative wear and tear on the tendons:
    • Arthritis may decrease the space for the tendons
    • Chronic instability of the humerus may traumatize the tendons
  • Repetitive overhead motion of the arm such as in:
    • Swimming
    • Baseball (mainly pitching)
    • Tennis

Risk Factors

Rotator cuff injury is more common in people 40 years and older. Other factors that increase your chance of a rotator cuff injury include:
  • Heavy lifting
  • Abnormalities of the shoulder, or in rotator cuff anatomy or function
  • Activities that involve repetitive overhead arm motion such as throwing
  • Weakened shoulder muscles from inactivity or previous injury


Rotator cuff injury may cause:
  • Recurrent, constant pain, particularly when reaching overhead
  • Pain at night that prevents you from sleeping
  • Shoulder muscle weakness, especially when lifting the arm
  • Popping or clicking sounds when the shoulder is moved
  • Limited range of motion in the shoulder joint


You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done, paying particular attention to your shoulder. You will be asked to move your shoulder in several directions.Tests may include:
  • Ultrasound
  • Arthrogram
  • MRI scan
  • Arthroscopy

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