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Rotator cuff injury: causes, symptoms, and treatment

by Alivia Nyhan
Published: Last Updated on

Have you ever felt pain when combing your hair or trying to touch your back? If you are between 40 and 50 years old, it could be a rotator cuff injury, which occurs more often.

A group of muscles and tendons found around the shoulder joint is called a rotator cuff. These are responsible for keeping the head of the upper arm bone within the shoulder socket.

A rotator cuff injury resulting from physical wear and tear due to age, trauma, sports practice, or repetitive movements can cause pain, inflammation, and functional limitation of the shoulder joint.

Next, in this FastlyHealarticle, you will learn everything related to rotator cuff injury: causes, symptoms, and treatment.

What is Rotator Cuff Injury

What is known as a rotator cuff injury can begin with inflammation of the tendon or tendonitis of the supraspinatus tendon, which is located in this joint?

If this inflammation increases over time, it causes what is known as tendon wear or tendinosis, which weakens the tendon and aggravates the wear, turning into chronic inflammation. If the latter is maintained without any improvement, a rotator cuff or tendon rupture may be evident, which will only be restored in a surgical procedure.

Causes of rotator cuff injury

Several causes can give rise to a rotator cuff injury. Among the most frequent are:

  • Age: Normal wear and tear on the supraspinatus tendon increases as we age. In people over 40 years of age, it is much more common to see this type of injury.
  • The practice of some sports: The repetitive practice that some athletes carry out, such as pitchers in baseball, tennis, and handball players, swimmers, weightlifters, or goalkeepers in soccer, have an increased risk of injuring the rotator cuff.
  • Work performance: the daily routine of some jobs, such as construction, carpentry, or house painting, involves implementing repetitive movements in the upper limbs, where it is required to place the arms above the head. This repetitive activity and the position can damage the rotator cuff.
  • Family history: it is common for some families to have alterations in the quality of the tendons, which could trigger the appearance of rotator cuff injuries.
  • Lifting or dragging heavy objects: Improper weight lifting can cause a rotator cuff muscle or tendon strain and even tear.
  • Trauma: Suffering a blow such as, for example, falling on the outstretched hand to avoid a much more spectacular fall can cause a tear or strain of a muscle located in the rotator cuff.
  • Suffering from some musculoskeletal diseases: the rotator cuff muscles can be weakened, causing an injury. This is very common when you have rheumatoid arthritis, which causes wear of the cartilage that surrounds the joint, the shoulder.

Rotator cuff injury symptoms

You can feel several symptoms if you have a rotator cuff injury. However, the most characteristic is:

  • Deep pain in the shoulder that may radiate to the elbow. This makes it difficult to fall asleep, especially if you sleep on the side of the affected shoulder.
  • Functional limitations are raising the arm, touching your back, lifting weight, or combing your hair.
  • Loss of arm strength and weakness, which is seen later in the injury.

Rotator cuff injury treatment

After the trauma doctor has diagnosed the injury, he must decide the treatment to follow according to the type of injury and the symptoms that occur.

Initially, physical rest, application of cold to the area, and rehabilitation physical therapy will be recommended when the injury is mild. If it is more serious, it will require other procedures such as:


It will be indicated to relieve pain and inflammation based on analgesics or anti-inflammatories, such as ibuprofen.


They will be placed when there is no improvement in pain. At that time, steroid injections will be indicated in the shoulder joint, depending on the severity of the injury. These will be useful only for a while.

Physiotherapy and rehabilitation

It will help to strengthen the shoulder and restore its flexibility. This is also indicated in those cases where it is necessary to perform surgery to eliminate the rotator cuff injury.


It is carried out in cases where the previous indications have not taken effect. In this sense, the surgical procedures that can be used are the following:

  • Arthroscopic or open surgery: these techniques will be used to repair the tendon depending on the injury type.
  • Tendon transfer: this can be carried out in cases where there is a tear of the tendon with a lot of damage to it to join it to the arm bone. The surgeon will decide if a nearby tendon can be used as a replacement in these cases.

This article is merely informative. At FastlyHeal .com, we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor if you present any condition or discomfort.

If you want to read more articles similar to Rotator cuff injury: causes, symptoms, and treatment, we recommend that you enter our Bones, Joints, and Muscles category.

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