Because of this wide arc of motion, your shoulders are critically important to just about any activity involving the use of the upper extremity. Because of your dependence on the shoulder for many activities, rotator cuff injuries can be frustrating experiences. Learn more about rotator cuff tears, including diagnosis, symptoms, treatments, and rehabilitation.
What Is the Rotator Cuff?
The rotator cuff is the group of four tendons and muscles that surround the shoulder joint. Often confused with other names, the proper word used to describe these muscles and tendons is the rotator cuff.
The rotator cuff is not only important with lifting movements of the shoulder, but the muscles and tendons are critical to the normal stability and mechanics of the shoulder. Without a properly functioning rotator cuff, you would expect some limits in normal shoulder function.
Rotator Cuff Tear Symptoms
Pain is the most common symptom of a rotator cuff problem.1 Patients usually complain of pain over the top of the shoulder and arm. In some patients, the pain can descend down the outside of the arm all the way to the elbow.
Shoulder weakness is the other common symptom of a rotator cuff tear.1Weakness causes difficulty lifting the arm up overhead and difficulty with activities such as reaching, getting dressed, or carrying objects.
Your healthcare provider will try to distinguish between actual weakness as opposed to apparent weakness. Actual weakness means that the muscle is damaged or there is a large tear in the tendon. Essentially, the muscle will not work.
Apparent weakness occurs when pain limits someone's ability to do an activity. While the muscle and tendon are structurally damaged, pain prevents the individual from performing their normal activities.