The rotator cuff is a group of muscles that help to move your arm smoothly.  These muscles attach to the top of the arm bone, or humerus via tendons. Injuries to these tendons can occur for a variety of reasons and can range from very small partial tears to complete tears of all the tendons.  Typically younger people can develop inflammation of the tendons with overuse, while older patients may be apt to tear multiple tendons completely.

Everyone is different and their pattern of injury is unlike anyone else.  There are some basic signs to look for with rotator cuff injuries:


Weakness results in the arm because the pulling tendons have partially disconnected.  This is often most noticeable when trying to lift your arm over your head.  Lifting a coffee cup may become difficult, or just lifting your hand.

Pain with movement.

Pain with movement is a key component.  Patients complain of pain trying to reach away from their body, combing their hair, reaching overhead or into the kitchen cabinets at eye level.

Pain at night

Perhaps the key factor that brings in patients to see me in the office, patients with rotator cuff injuries seem to have more significant pain at night, and can’t sleep on the affected side.  This pain can wake you up and keep you up.

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Shoulders love to get stiff after injury.  As pain becomes bothersome after a tear, range of motion often begins to decrease, especially reaching behind your back.  Pushing your shoulder past these limits becomes increasingly painful.

Are you concerned you may have a rotator cuff tear?  Studies have shown there is a high chance it may get worse with time.  Ignoring the problem doesn’t make it go away.  With rotator cuff tears, being seen by an orthopedic surgeon sooner is better than later.

If you have questions about rotator cuff tears, please feel free to contact me at Ask Dr. Hacker or through my office.

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