The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint, keeping the head of your upper arm bone firmly within the shallow socket of the shoulder. A rotator cuff injury can cause a dull ache in the shoulder, which often worsens when you try to sleep on the involved side.
Rotator cuff injuries occur most often in people who repeatedly perform overhead motions in their jobs or sports. Examples include painters, carpenters, and people who play baseball or tennis. The risk of rotator cuff injury also increases with age.
Many people recover from rotator cuff disease with physical therapy exercises that improve flexibility and strength of the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint.
Sometimes, rotator cuff tears may occur as a result of a single injury. In those circumstances, medical care should be provided as soon as possible. Extensive rotator cuff tears may require surgical repair, transfer of alternative tendons or joint replacement.
Rotator cuff injuries
Rotator cuff injuries can range in severity from simple inflammation to complete tears.
Find out why Mayo Clinic is the best place for your care.
March 17, 2015
- DeLee JC, et al. DeLee & Drez's Orthopaedic Sports Medicine: Principles and Practice. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2015. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Dec. 11, 2014.
- Frontera WR, et al. Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation: Musculoskeletal Disorders, Pain, and Rehabilitation. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2008. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Dec. 11, 2014.
- Rotator cuff tears. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00064. Accessed Dec. 11, 2014.
- Simons SM, et al. Rotator cuff tendinopathy. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Dec. 11, 2014.
- Firestein GS, et al. Kelley's Textbook of Rheumatology. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2013. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Dec. 11, 2014.
- Sanchez-Sotelo J (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Jan. 20, 2015.
- Canale ST, et al. Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics. 12th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2013. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Dec. 12, 2014.
- AskMayoExpert. Rotator cuff repair. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2014.
- Miller HL. Decision Support System. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Nov. 21, 2014.
- Hartzler RU, et al. Biomechanical effectiveness of different types of tendon transfers to the shoulder for external rotation. Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery. 2012;21:1370.
- Miller HL. Decision Support System. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Jan. 8, 2015.
- Pagnano MW (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Jan. 22, 2015.
You Are ... The Campaign for Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit organization. Make a difference today.