rotator cuff tear symptoms

The rotator cuff is the group of tendons in and around the shoulder joint that provide support and enable a wider range of motion for the shoulder. Major (or minor) injury to these tendons may lead to a tear of these tendons, in which the condition is characterized as a rotator cuff tear. You likely know someone who has experienced a rotator cuff injury – they’re one of the most common injuries suffered among the adult population! Every year, nearly 2 million people visit their doctors due to a rotator cuff injury, or related pain.

With injuries to the rotator cuff being so common, today we wanted to share the most common symptoms of a rotator cuff tear:

Rotator Cuff Tear Symptoms


While it may seem obvious, rotator cuff injuries are characterized by a dull and aching pain that emanates from deep within the shoulder joint. This pain is also prevalent at rest and may keep you from sleeping through the night. The pain level you may be experiencing is directly correlated with the severity of the injury. With a partial tear, you will experience pain, but will still be able to move your arm. A complete tear involves detachment of the tendon from the humeral head and the inability to move the arm normally. 

Lessened Range of Motion

While pain is one of the main characteristics of a rotator cuff injury, a drastically lessened range of motion can also be a sign that you’ve damaged your shoulder joint. When experiencing an injury to your rotator cuff, you may experience pain when raising or lowering your arm, and in extreme cases, you may not be able to lift your arm much at all. In less severe cases, it may be difficult or painful to wash your hair, or reach up and grab something from a high shelf. A severely restricted range of motion is one of the most common rotator cuff tear symptoms, and if you experience this, please reach out and make an appointment with one of our shoulder specialists! 


As mentioned before, one of the telltale signs of a rotator cuff injury is a lessened range of motion and pain when moving your arm or shoulder in certain ways. Weakness of the shoulder joint is a similar rotator cuff tear injury. If you cannot raise your arm as much as you usually can, or cannot lift light everyday objects, please reach out and make an appointment with your doctor, as you may be suffering from a rotator cuff injury! 

Other Symptoms

Other rotator cuff tear symptoms include localized swelling and stiffness. Rotator cuff injuries are also characterized by a crackling sensation on moving the shoulder into certain positions

Rotator cuff injuries are quite common, and it’s important to be able to spot the signs when you, or someone you know, may be experiencing one! If you’ve recently suffered a shoulder injury, or have been living with shoulder pain for an extended period of time, please reach out and make an appointment. We’d love nothing more than to get you back to doing the things you love, pain-free!