Symptoms of a rotator cuff
disorder include pain and weakness in the shoulder. Most often, the pain is on
the side and front of the upper arm and shoulder. It may hurt or be impossible
to do everyday things, such as comb your hair, tuck in your shirt, or reach for
something. You may have pain during the night and trouble sleeping.
To diagnose a rotator cuff disorder, doctors ask about any shoulder
injuries or past shoulder pain. They also do a physical exam to see how well
the shoulder works and to find painful areas or activities. Moving your arm in
certain ways can help a doctor learn about the condition of the rotator cuff.
You may have an
X-ray to check the bones of the shoulder. If the
diagnosis is still unclear, the doctor may order an imaging test, such as an
MRI or an
It is important to treat a rotator cuff problem.
Without treatment, your shoulder may get weaker and you may not be able to lift
up your arm.
For most rotator cuff disorders, doctors recommend
these steps first:
- Rest the shoulder. Use the arm, but do so
carefully. Don't keep the shoulder still with a sling or brace. This can lead
to stiffness or even a frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis).
- Use ice or heat on
the shoulder, whichever feels better.
- Take anti-inflammatory drugsanti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to relieve pain and
reduce swelling and inflammation. Examples include ibuprofen (such as
Advil) and naproxen (such as Aleve). Or try acetaminophen (such as Tylenol). It can help with pain but will not reduce swelling or inflammation. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
- Avoid positions and
activities that are uncomfortable, such as lifting or reaching overhead. Stop
any activity that hurts the shoulder.
The doctor may also suggest
physical therapy. Physical therapy can reduce pain and
help make your shoulder stronger and more flexible. In physical therapy, you
learn exercises to stretch and strengthen your shoulder. After you learn the
exercises, you can do them at home.