6 Signs of a Rotator Cuff Injury

6 Signs of a Rotator Cuff Injury

Rotator cuff injuries are common, especially among athletes, older adults, and people whose jobs require them to lift their arms overhead repeatedly. They may result from a single injury or repeated wear and tear, but conservative treatments are usually adequate.

When your injury requires surgery, our providers at the Orthopaedic Institute of Henderson are experts in performing minimally invasive arthroscopic rotator cuff repairs. Our priority is returning you to normal life as quickly as possible. 

What is a rotator cuff?

The rotator cuff is a set of tendons and muscles responsible for stabilizing and centering your shoulder joint. It keeps the top of your upper arm bone (humerus) secured in a shallow socket in your shoulder blade (scapula) by wrapping around the head of your humerus like a cuff.  

Each muscle and tendon in the rotator cuff helps you extend and move your arms while keeping the bones from popping out of the socket. A rotator cuff injury can cause restricted mobility or loss of strength.

Signs of a rotator cuff injury

A rotator cuff injury may initially go unnoticed because of normal wear and tear. Some patients experience an injury through sports or heavy lifting. One study discovered that only 20 percent of those with painful symptoms saw a doctor. These six signs could indicate a rotator cuff injury. 

1. Pain

Shoulder pain is often caused by an inflamed tendon (tendinitis) or a torn tendon in the rotator cuff. Pain ranges from a sharp sensation to a dull ache. The shoulder pain can also shoot down your upper arm with overhead movement. It’s usually felt in the front or lateral part of the upper arm and shoulder.

2. Increased pain at night

You might notice increased pain at night while trying to rest. Rotator cuff injuries can cause an aching sensation in the arm when sleeping on the affected side. Some patients experience throbbing pain that keeps them awake.

3. Weakness

A rotator cuff injury weakens the shoulder by altering the joint mechanics. You might experience weakness when lifting a carton of milk or putting dishes away in upper cabinets.

4. Stiffness

Rotator cuff pain causes stiffness in the shoulder by joint disuse. This leads to secondary muscular weakness that continues to exacerbate shoulder stiffness. 

5. Movement difficulty

If the rotator cuff is injured or irritated, you could have difficulty performing routine activities like brushing your hair, getting dressed, or reaching behind your back.

6. Cracking or popping

A rotator cuff injury can cause cracking, popping, or grinding in your shoulder joint. Swollen tendons cause spatial confinement, tightening up available space for the complex shoulder structures. These space restrictions cause popping and cracking noises. 

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, make an appointment with an expert today. Untreated shoulder pain can lead to serious problems.

Diagnosing a rotator cuff injury

A detailed medical history and clinical examination are important in establishing the diagnosis. Your Orthopaedic Institute of Henderson provider will need X-rays or an MRI to diagnose the underlying problem or determine the extent of the injury.

Depending on the type of injury and your activity level, age, and general health, your provider develops a personalized treatment plan. Call the Orthopaedic Institute of Henderson today or request an appointment online to speak with one of our board-certified physicians.

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