Rotator cuff injury often happens due to a fall or overuse. The rotator cuff or rotor cuff is a network of four muscles and several tendons that form a covering around the top of the upper arm bone (humerus). The cuff holds the humerus in place in the shoulder joint and allows the arm to rotate. A rotor cuff injury is an injury to any of the four muscles. It can happen quickly and is usually associated with a specific instance. It can also be progressive and the cause may not be clearly known.

Range of the Injury

The injury can involve just one muscle or multiple muscles. It can be inflammatory or a tear in the muscles. It can recover on its own or require surgery for repair. As you can see a rotator cuff injury can be rather minor or very serious. It all depends on just what happened to the rotor cuff.


The most common symptom is pain. It usually is a pain in the shoulder that gets worse when the arm is raised over the head. It may also get worse when carrying something heavy or when lying on the injured shoulder. For more serious injuries, the pain may be persistent.

Symptoms may also include weaknesses in the arm. The affected arm may be difficult to move and the range of motion may be limited. This can lead to a feeling of not wanting to move the arm for fear of feeling pain.

Who is at Risk

People at risk for a rotator injury include those with jobs where they are lifting heavy objects or doing repetitive movements with the arms where they are moving their arms over their head and back down. The elderly are also at high risk for a rotor cuff injury due to their weakened muscle strength and already reduced range of motion. People who are involved in certain sports may also be at a higher risk for this injury.


As soon as symptoms are notified it is important to seek medical attention. A doctor will run tests to see if you have a rotator cuff injury and how severe the injury is if you do have one. You may have an x-ray, an ultrasound or other scans to look inside your shoulder area.

Your doctor may prescribe medication and home care if your injury is not severe. Home care includes plenty of rest and immobilizing the arm. Ice and heat should be used to treat the inflammation. If your injury is severe then your doctor will want to discuss further medical treatments.


This injury can usually be treated effectively. It is all about finding the right treatment and seeking medical assistance as soon as possible. You should always follow the instructions of your doctor for care so that you can help your shoulder heal quickly. Do not let a rotor cuff injury go without treatment. Any pain should be a sign that something is wrong and that you need to see a doctor. Only by getting care can you fix the problem and prevent further injury to your shoulder.