The tendons of the rotator cuff pass underneath a bony area on their way to attaching the top part of the arm bone. When these tendons become inflamed, they can become frayed over this area during shoulder movements. Sometimes, a bone spur narrows the space even more.
Early on, pain is mild and occurs with overhead activities and lifting your arm to the side. Pain is more likely in the front of the shoulder and may travel to the side of the arm, always stopping before the elbow. If the pain goes down the arm to the elbow and hand, this may indicate a pinched nerve in the neck. There may also be pain when you lower the shoulder from a raised position.
Over time, there may be pain at rest or at night, such as when lying on the affected shoulder. You may have weakness and loss of motion when raising the arm above your head. Your shoulder can feel stiff with lifting or movement. It may become more difficult to place the arm behind your back.
A physical examination may reveal tenderness over the shoulder. Pain may occur when the shoulder is raised overhead. There is usually weakness of the shoulder when it is placed in certain positions. Your doctor may evaluate your shoulder using X-ray, ultrasound or an MRI.
Follow your doctor's instructions on how to take care of your rotator cuff problem at home. Doing so can help relieve your symptoms so that you can return to sports or other activities.
Your doctor will likely advise you to rest your shoulder and avoid activities that cause pain. Other measures include:
If you have experienced a shoulder injury or are experiencing painful shoulder movement, our team can help. Call 1-855-NH-SPORT to schedule an appointment with one of our orthopedic sports medicine shoulder specialists.