The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that attach to the bones of the shoulder joint, allowing the shoulder to move and keeping it stable.
The shoulder joint is a ball and socket type joint where the top part of the arm bone (humerus) forms a joint with the shoulder blade (scapula).
The tendons of the rotator cuff pass underneath a bony area on their way to attaching the top part of the arm bone. A sudden or acute tear may happen when you fall on your arm while it is stretched out, or after a sudden, jerking motion when you try to lift something heavy.
Symptoms of a chronic rotator cuff tear include a gradual worsening of pain, weakness, and stiffness or loss of motion. You should start physical therapy to learn exercises to stretch and strengthen the muscles of your rotator cuff. If the pain persists, or if therapy is not possible because of severe pain, a steroid injection may reduce pain and swelling in the injured tendons to allow effective therapy.


Rest and exercise may help someone with a partial rotator cuff tear who does not normally place a lot of demand on the shoulder. Back to TopWhen to Contact a Medical Professional Call for an appointment with your health care provider if persistent shoulder pain occurs. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition.
The rotator cuff holds the head of the humerus into the scapula and controls movement of the shoulder joint. When these tendons become inflamed, they can become more frayed over this area during shoulder movements. Over time, pain may be present at rest or at night, especially when lying on the affected shoulder.
Weakness of the shoulder and arm is often present, along with a snapping sensation of movement.


The exact point when a rotator cuff tear begins in someone with chronic shoulder tendinitis may or may not be noticed. Some may need to change or reduce the amount of time they play certain sports to remain pain-free. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. If the pain travels beyond the arm to the elbow and hand, this may indicate a pinched nerve.



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