Signs & Symptoms of Rotator Cuff Tendinopathy

The shoulder is part of a complex structure of joint, bone, muscles and tissues that are responsible for arm and hand movements. Problems in the soft tissues of the shoulder can lead to shoulder pain that may be a sign of injury to the rotator cuff also known as rotator cuff tendinopathy. Shoulder pain may also be present in diseases affecting other parts such as the subacromion (portion below the shoulder blade); thus, a patient must undergo thorough examination including imaging for a closer look at other symptoms that can indicate the true cause of shoulder pain.

Signs & Symptoms of rotator cuff tendinopathy:

The rotator cuff is a group of muscles, tendons and tissues that connect the ball joint to the shoulder allowing it to move smoothly without pain. A number of factors that are intrinsic (within the tendon), extrinsic and environmental can lead to problems at the rotator cuff.

Pain: Shoulder pain is a common sign of injury at the rotator cuff tendon. Pain can be constant or intermittent and may increase with activity and in certain positions. Pain may be present or worsen at night.

Swelling: Subjecting the rotator cuff tendon to loads or activity levels in excess of its normal capacity can increase swelling within the tendon and the accumulation of bursal fluid in the area.

Limited range of motion: Performing overhead movements such as combing one’s hair and lifting objects overhead can cause unbearable suffering, affecting the patient’s ability to perform normal activities.

Rotator cuff tears can progress from partial thickness tears to complete or full thickness tears accompanied by worsening symptoms of pain and arm weakness.


Imaging of the affected area can provide a clearer picture of the rotator cuff, showing other signs such as degeneration and tears of the rotator cuff, the formation of new blood vessels (neovascularity), and the accumulation of fluid in the joint possibly involving the bursa (fluid-filled pocket under the shoulder blade that cushions the joint during movement).

The rotator cuff tendon tends to deteriorate with age; small tears that are not controlled with appropriate rest and exercise can progress to larger tears, causing more pain and disuse of the affected joint. Moreover, pain arising from rotator cuff tears can radiate to adjacent parts of the shoulder and can be confused with other types of shoulder problems. Thus, identifying all the signs and symptoms through examination and imaging is a key step in the management and treatment of rotator cuff tendinopathy.

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