The rotator cuff is made up of four tendons around the shoulder joint. The rotator cuff functions to control and rotate the shoulder joint. A rotator cuff tear is caused from injury or overuse of one or more rotator cuff tendons around the shoulder joint, and can happen suddenly or gradually over time.
Rotator cuff tears can be partial thickness (surface tears) or full thickness in nature. Torn rotator cuff symptoms due to a sudden injury will consist of immediate pain and weakness in the shoulder, and are sometimes accompanied by a popping or tearing feeling. Symptoms of rotator cuff tears due to overuse are more gradual. Pain may radiate down into the arm and many times sleeping on the shoulder will be painful. Often times shoulder impingement syndrome precedes a rotator cuff tear. Shoulder impingement is when the rotator cuff pinches between the humeral head (ball of the shoulder joint) and the shoulder blade when moving the arm overhead. With time, the pain may gradually get worse and a rotator cuff tendon tear may occur, if untreated. Seek medical attention if you are unable to work or perform daily activities due to pain in your shoulder.
Rotator cuff injury signs and symptoms
- Pain at rest and at night, especially if lying on the injured shoulder
- Pain when lifting and lowering your arm
- Crackling sensation when moving your shoulder in certain positions
- Weakness when lifting or rotating your arm
- Pain with specific movements