How to Identify Symptoms of a Rotator Cuff Injury

Rotator cuff diagram

The rotator cuff involves the muscles and tendons that come together to form a covering around the head of the humerus (upper arm bone) and top of the shoulder. Prolonged periods of repetitive injury to the shoulder, usually resulting from overhead activities such as throwing sports or tennis, may cause tendonitis (inflammation) and eventual tearing in the rotator cuff. A traumatic event involving heavy lifting or a fall on the arm and shoulder may also injure the rotator cuff.

Symptoms of rotator cuff tendonitis or tear include:

  • pain in the front and/or down the outside of the shoulder
  • weakness
  • stiffness
  • loss of motion

Rotator cuff tendonitis may be treated with rest, anti-inflammatory medication or steroid injection. Consult a physician in sports medicine for a diagnosis and treatment of a rotator cuff injury.


Topics: Orthopedics
The information provided in this blog by HSS and our affiliated physicians is for general informational and educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual problem you may have. This information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified health care provider who is familiar with the unique facts about your condition and medical history. You should always consult your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment, or terminating or changing any ongoing treatment. Every post on this blog is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the official position of HSS. Please contact us if we can be helpful in answering any questions or to arrange for a visit or consult.


  1. I’m deaf person and I’m 69 years old. I have problem with my right shoulder rotator cuff that has tear and I went to see my dr from Orthopedic Dr.Michael Schmidt MD from Tallgrass building in Topeka,KS. He send me to MRI at the same building and after he found out that I have tear for long time as I didn’t know. He told me that he can’t operate for my right shoulder and he said lots of old people have shoulder tear. I’m asking you, Is it too late to operate on my right shoulder that rotator cuff tear? Please tell me What do you think.It hurts me every move on what I do around my house. When I was young I used play volley ball at Kansas School for the Deaf in Olathe,Ks and I used to play baseball. Please email me when you have time to answer.Thank You! Maria A. Zulaica,Topeka,Ks

    1. Hi Maria, thank you for reaching out. Dr. John MacGillivray, Orthopedic Surgeon, says: “Your MRI would need to be reviewed by a physician in order to determine whether or not your rotator cuff is repairable.” For more information on rotator cuff injuries, visit If you wish to receive care at Hospital for Special Surgery, please contact our Coast to Coast (C2C) Program at 212-606-1610 or by email at for further assistance. To learn more about the C2C Program at HSS, please visit

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