What Does a Rotator Cuff Injury Feel Like?

With all its moving parts and responsibilities, the rotator cuff often gets injured. In fact, about 3 million Americans experience a rotator cuff injury each year. 

Your rotator cuff is composed of tendons and muscles that surround your shoulder joint. These tendons and muscles connect your shoulder bone, or scapula, to your upper arm bone, your humerus. 

These bones, tendons, joints, and muscles work together to keep your arm and shoulder stable while you move it in different directions. 

At Orange Orthopaedics Associates, our fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon, Dr. James M. Lee Jr, has extensive experience diagnosing and treating all types of rotator cuff injuries. How do you know if you have one? Read on to find out.

Who is at risk of a rotator cuff injury?

Anyone can experience a rotator cuff injury, but people who use their shoulders frequently for work, sports, or leisure activities are more at risk of developing one. Older adults and those with a family history of rotator cuff injuries are also at risk of experiencing a rotator cuff injury. 

Rotator cuff injuries are usually overuse injuries, although an accident or impact can cause one as well. Jobs that require repetitive overhead movements such as painting or carpentry and sports such as swimming, tennis, and baseball are all high-risk jobs and activities. 

What are common rotator cuff injuries?

Rotator cuff injuries can range from mild to severe, with symptoms that can escalate to stabbing pain and limited movement. The most common rotator cuff injuries include:


Rotator cuff tendinitis develops when the tendons are irritated and inflamed. This condition is caused by keeping your shoulder in one place for an extended period or from repetitive overhead movements.  


Bursitis is also a result of inflammation. Bursas are small sacs filled with fluid that act as a cushion between the tendons and bones. When the bursa is irritated and inflamed, it’s called bursitis. 

Partial rotator cuff tear

A tear can be the result of overuse or a traumatic injury. A partial tear is when the tendon that connects to the bone gets stretched or strained but is not completely torn.

Complete rotator cuff tear

A complete rotator cuff tear is when a tendon is completely torn. Again, it can result from wear-and-tear due to overuse of the tendon or an accident.

Common rotator cuff injury symptoms

Some injuries result in only mild symptoms. The best treatment for mild symptoms is rest and ice. In the case of a rotator cuff tear, you usually feel intense pain immediately. Other common symptoms include:

Your recommended course of treatment depends on your symptoms and injury. Dr. Lee has extensive experience treating all types of rotator cuff injuries, from mild to severe. 

Do you think you have a rotator cuff injury? Call one of our offices in West Orange and Bayonne, New Jersey, to make an appointment with Dr. Lee. You can also book an appointment online.

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