Rotator Cuff Therapy Exercises

What are Rotator Cuff Injury Symptoms?

Rotator cuff injury symptoms

The first thing to recognise before talking about symptoms of any injury is that your symptoms are unique to you. Your cuff injury symptoms are no different. They affect different people in different ways.

I can talk in general terms about rotator cuff injury symptoms such as rotator cuff inflammation, weakness and pain. That does not mean that you will or should be experiencing any or all of these things. There is no definitive list of symptoms. There are, however, some generally accepted symptoms that apply to most people, most of the time, while suffering from any rotator cuff injury.

It is these generally accepted rotator cuff injury symptoms that I want to focus on. I want to give you an understanding of the likely symptoms you are suffering from or may develop at some time.

Types of Rotator cuff injury

I tend to think of Rotator cuff injuries as including tears, both acute (sudden onset) and chronic, tendonitis type conditions and those caused by major trauma. There are other conditions that affect the rotator cuff but I would not classify them as injuries.

Chronic rotator cuff tear

A chronic rotator cuff tear is more common in the dominant arm. It is also more common in men than women. Similarly it is also much more common in those over 40 years of age and becomes more common with advancing age.

Rotator Cuff Injury SymptomsThe most common symptom is pain. Generally the pain is felt on the point of the shoulder.

Although the injury may be chronic the onset of pain can be quite sudden.

Pain is often worse overnight and regularly interferes with sleep patterns.

It is often true that pain will diminish over time with no treatment.

Regular treatment for rotator cuff pain includes the application of the R.I.C.E principles.

Pain relief for rotator cuff tear injuries includes normal over the counter medicines and anti inflammatory drugs.

Complete rotator cuff convalescence is best achieved through regular exercise.

Pain is often followed by a gradual weakening of the function of the affected arm. There will be a decrease in the ability to move the arm, particularly out from the side. It should still be possible to use the arm for most activities however. The exception may be those activities that require lifting the arm above the level of the shoulder.

Acute rotator cuff tear

Rotator cuff injury symptoms associated with an acute tear of the rotator cuff are associated with a distinct episode. Generally when undertaking some task or activity. They are often more common when the shoulder is put under strain towards the limit of its range.

There is often a sudden tearing sensation and if you have ever suffered this it is a horrible sensation. You just know immediately that there is a major problem. There may also be a really short delay and then the pain hits. It can be severe and can shoot up and down the arm and through the whole shoulder.

Arm motion can be limited by both pain and muscle spasm. This acute pain caused by some internal bleeding and muscle spasm often lasts only a few days. There may well be a residual tenderness over the point of the tear that can last a while longer.

As with the chronic tear there will likely be a gradual weakening of function. Treatment options will remain the same as for a chronic tear.

Tendonitis type injury symptoms

There are various types of tendonopathy associated with the rotator cuff. The symptoms of which are generally common to each.

  1. Pain
  2. Inflammation
  3. Burning sensation
  4. Deep ache in the shoulder joint
  5. Point tenderness
  6. Pain comes on gradually and increases when lifting the arm
  7. May lead to a chronic tear

Major Trauma

A major trauma such as a car crash can have significant affect upon any area of the body and the rotator cuff is no exception. It is likely however that if you are unlucky enough to have been affected in this way the rotator cuff will have been assessed as part of your treatment. It would be impossible for me to go into detail covering every possible eventuality. I hope you can understand that.

In conclusion

The information above is an overview of potential rotator cuff injury symptoms. Most people will have experienced some or indeed all of these. As I explained above the list is not exhaustive. Some other common symptoms include

  1. Stiffness in the shoulder
  2. Inflammation
  3. Disturbed sleep
  4. Atrophy – a wasting of the surrounding muscles
  5. Crepitus – A crackling or catching or clicking sensation when the arm is moved, especially lowered.
  6. Shrugging of shoulders

A word of warning

If you are in any doubt at all then please see a doctor!

Shoulder pain can be a symptom of other illnesses such as a heart condition. Pain from a rotator cuff problem is worsened with movement.

If you have unexplained shoulder pain that is not affected by movement, you should call the doctor.

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