What are the signs of a Rotator Cuff injury?

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

rotator cuff is a group of four tendons and muscles that support your arm at the shoulder joint. It helps to keep your shoulder joint in place and in its socket, and allows you to freely move it around and rotate it.

Damage to the rotator cuff can happen due to many reasons, such as injury, chronic overuse or even just gradual ageing. However, rotator cuff injuries are often confused with other shoulder injuries such as a frozen shoulder, so it’s important to know the signs and symptoms of a rotator cuff injury so you can spot it when it occurs.


What are the signs and symptoms of a rotator cuff injury?

It’s not always possible to feel a torn or damaged rotator cuff, but the most common symptoms include:

  • Shoulder pain and discomfort that can radiate down your arm.
  • Weakness when you lift or move your arm from the shoulder.
  • Limited shoulder movement. You may be unable to move your shoulder fully.
  • Difficulty doing everyday tasks such as getting dressed or combing your hair.

If you notice any of these signs and they aren’t improving, consult your doctor.


What causes a rotator cuff injury?

The causes of a rotator cuff injury can vary, as you can wear it down or damage it in a number of ways. A worn-down rotator cuff that tears is usually called a degenerative tear, and the following things can cause this:

  • Occupation – having jobs that involve a lot of manual labour can increase the risk of rotator cuff tears.
  • Lack of blood supply – if your rotator cuff gets less blood, it can make smaller tears harder to repair and can lead to larger tears.
  • Bone overgrowth – bone spurs in the shoulder which happens as you get older can cause tears in the rotator cuff.
  • Sports injuries can put stress on or damage the rotator cuff
  • Family history – some doctors believe genetics can be a factor when it comes to rotator cuff injuries.
  • Age – rotator cuff injuries are more common in people over 60 as the tendons naturally wear down over time.


What does a rotator cuff injury feel like?

Rotator cuff injuries are often confused for other shoulder related injuries, but the common symptoms a person with a damaged rotator cuff may feel includes a dull, aching pain in your shoulder which can get worse when raising or lowering your arm. The pain may also get severe if it is a larger tear or if it was caused by something like a fall.

Pain that stems from a rotator cuff injury can be a lot harder to ignore when trying to sleep, and is often the main reasons people seek medical help.


What is the best treatment for rotator cuff injury?

There’s a wide range of treatment options that are available for rotator cuff injuries, and the best course of action will be determined by the extent of your injury. Surgery is generally only recommended in more severe cases.

Treatments for rotator cuff injury include:

  • Physical therapy – this is one of the first treatments that are suggested to those with a rotator cuff injury. Exercise that is tailored for your specific injury that targets the area can help to ease the pain and restore strength and flexibility to your shoulder.
  • Injections – steroid injections are another popular form of treatment for rotator cuff injuries. Steroid injections shot into the shoulder joint can provide temporary pain relief and help with sleep, daily activities and physical therapy.
  • Surgical treatment – there are a number of different surgical treatments that are available for rotator cuff injuries, including arthroscopic tendon repair, open tendon repair, tendon transfer and even shoulder replacement.


How long does a rotator cuff injury take to heal?

The amount of time it takes to recover from a rotator cuff injury will depend on how bad the injury actually was. Roughly, the minimum time to recover from a small tear is around two to four weeks, whilst more severe tears and injuries can take up to several months to fully heal.


How can I sleep with a rotator cuff injury?

Sleeping with a rotator cuff injury can be quite troublesome, especially if the pain is on the side you prefer to sleep on. Try sleeping on the non-painful side and place a pillow underneath the painful shoulder’s armpit so it’s in a slightly more neutral and comfortable position, which may make it easier to fall asleep.


Treatment for a Rotator Cuff Injury at Ramsay Health Care

At Ramsay, we can provide you with the support you need before, during and, after your rotator cuff shoulder treatment, helping you to recover as quickly as possible.

We have friendly and professional staff including expert orthopaedic surgeons, state-of-the-art hospitals with advanced diagnostic equipment and excellent physiotherapy services to aid rehabilitation. Find out more about rotator cuff surgery here, or get in touch with us today to make an appointment with a specialist.

There is a range of ways you can access treatment with us, find out more about accessing healthcare treatment with us here.

Register your interest to hear from us