The rotator cuff is comprised of four muscles that assist in moving and stabilizing the shoulder joint. When one of these muscles is damaged, it is known as a rotator cuff injury. This type of injury can be extremely painful and can limit the range of motion in the shoulder.
Symptoms of a Rotator Cuff Injury
Signs that indicate that the rotator cuff has been injured include:
- A dull ache in the shoulder
- Difficulty reaching over the head and/or behind the back
- Weakness in the arm
- Sleep disturbance, especially while lying on the affected shoulder
There are several risk factors that can increase the chances of a rotator cuff injury. These factors include:
- Age. As you age, there is an increased risk of injuring the rotator cuff. These injuries are the most common in people 35 and older.
- Participation in Certain Sports. Participating in sports that require repetitive arm motions can increase the chances of injuring the rotator cuff. Golfers, baseball pitchers, surfers, volleyball, and tennis players, for example, have a greater risk of injuring their rotator cuffs.
- Physically Demanding Occupations. Repetitive motion of the arms increases the chances of a rotator cuff injury. Painters and carpenters, for example, are more likely to damage a rotator cuff. Firefighters, policemen, and manual laborers have an increased risk of rotator cuff problems.
- Family History. Genetics can increase the chances injuring the rotator cuff. These injuries seem to be more prevalent in some families than in others.
- Excessive Use. Excessively using the shoulder can cause the rotator cuff to degenerate. When this happens, small tears develop in the rotator cuff, and these tears make the muscles weaker and more susceptible to larger tears. Engaging in activities that involve repetitive overhead shoulder motions can cause degenerative rotator cuff injuries, including hammering, painting, swimming, pitching in baseball, and playing tennis.
- Arthritis in the Shoulder. Individuals with arthritis in their shoulder can also have rotator cuff tears. Arthritis causes stiffness and weakness in the shoulder muscles, as well as bone spurs, all factors that can increase the chances of injuring the rotator cuff tears.
- Older Age. People over the age of 60 are more likely to develop degenerative rotator cuff injuries because of the repetitive use of these muscles over time. In people over the age of 70, experts estimate that about 30-40 percent have rotator cuff tears that may not present with symptoms.