Although there are many reasons for shoulder pain, a common problem for people over 40 years of age is a rotator cuff tear. The rotator cuff is comprised of the muscles and tendons that surround the top of the upper arm bone — the humerus — and hold it in the shoulder joint. A sudden tear may result from a single traumatic event or develop gradually because of repetitive overhead activities. A partial tear may cause pain when the arm is lifted in a certain arc away from the body (painful arc syndrome) and a complete tear may limit the aility to raise the arm. A rotator cuff tear usually occurs in the dominant arm — the right shoulder for right-handed people and the left shoulder for left-handed people.
Signs and symptoms of rotator cuff tears are:
Diagnosis is made through taking a patient's medical history, performing a physical examination and taking X-rays.
In most cases, the initial treatment involves:
Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.