Signs of a Rotator Cuff Injury

Jun 01, 2022

 Signs of a Rotator Cuff Injury

Signs of a Rotator Cuff Injury

Your rotator cuff is made up of four muscles and their corresponding tendons. It forms a “cuff” over the head of your upper arm bone and enables you to lift and rotate your arm. It also keeps your shoulder in place.

If you’re suffering from shoulder pain, it could very well be an injury to the rotator cuff. At Sequoia Institute for Surgical Services in Visalia, California, our orthopedic specialists know firsthand how rotator cuff injuries can impact your quality of life.

Read on to learn when you should suspect you have a rotator cuff injury and how we can help. 

Types of injuries to the rotator cuff

An injury to the rotator cuff might be caused by:


Overuse of the rotator cuff, like repetitively painting or swinging a racket, can result in tendinitis. This condition describes when the tendons, connective tissues that connects muscle to bone, become inflamed.


Bursitis is another type of inflammation. It affects the fluid-filled cushions located between your bone and your rotator cuff. These bursae cushion the joint, but when they’re irritated, you experience shoulder pain.


The rotator cuff is vulnerable to tissue tears, which affect 64% of those who have shoulder pain. You may experience a tear due to trauma – from a car accident or fall, for example – or from overuse. As you age, the tissues become weaker and more vulnerable to tearing. 

Signs that suggest a rotator cuff injury

The symptoms you experience depend on the type of rotator cuff injury you have. Some symptoms come on suddenly (such as with an acute injury), and some may develop over time. 

Signs of a rotator cuff injury include:

  • Recurrent pain, especially with specific activities
  • Loss of full range of motion in your shoulder
  • Increased discomfort at night and when you sleep on your affected shoulder
  • Pain when reaching over your head
  • Weakness in your shoulder
  • Inability to reach fully behind your back

If you experience a sudden rotator cuff tear, you will likely experience pain in the front of your shoulder that radiates through your arm. You might also hear/feel a snapping sensation accompanied by weakness in your arm.

A rotator cuff tear can also make it difficult to do daily chores and simple activities, such as brushing your hair or getting dressed. 

What to do about rotator cuff injuries

The first steps in caring for a rotator cuff injury include conservative treatments like physical therapy, rest, and movement modifications. But, if you have severe pain and it doesn’t respond to these treatments, or if you play a sport or have a job that requires a lot of shoulder and arm mobility, rotator cuff repair surgery may be needed to bring relief from pain and restore your range of motion. 

Your surgeon uses minimally invasive surgery to repair your rotator cuff. They use small incisions to insert a surgical camera, called an arthroscope, to see the damage needing repair. Small instruments allow your provider to reattach tendons and remove ragged tissue. 

We’re ready to support your recovery with physical therapy and recommendations on when to return to normal movement.

If you’re struggling with shoulder pain, call the Sequoia Institute for Surgical Services today. Alternatively, use this website to set up a thorough evaluation of your shoulder.