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Medical History for Rotator Cuff Disorders

Your age, the history of your injury, a description of your shoulder pain, your participation in sports or job-related activities, and the results of any previous evaluation and treatment will all help your doctor diagnose your rotator cuff disorder.

  • Rotator cuff tendinitis or bursitis may occur in people younger than 40 who overuse the shoulder over a short period of time, in people whose jobs require a lot of overhead reaching or lifting objects to shoulder height, or in those who have had a previous shoulder injury (dislocation or broken bone). Rotator cuff tendinitis or bursitis usually causes pain during and after using the shoulder.
  • Complete rotator cuff tears are not common in people younger than 40 unless they have had a sudden and severe (acute) injury. In people older than 40, the rotator cuff may be weaker, and a minor injury or accident may tear the tendon. People may hear or feel their shoulder pop at the time of injury.

Questions about shoulder pain

Your doctor may ask the following questions about your shoulder pain, activities, and history of shoulder problems:

  • How long have you had shoulder pain?
  • Was there an injury when your shoulder pain started? What were you doing when the pain started?
  • Where is the pain located?
  • Is your pain constant, or does it come and go? What makes your shoulder feel better? What makes it feel worse?
  • Does your shoulder have weakness, numbness, or limited range of motion?
  • Have you had shoulder injuries or problems in the past? If so, how were these problems treated? Did your shoulder problem completely get better, or do you still have shoulder problems?
  • Do you have any chronic diseases (such as diabetes or arthritis) or heart or nervous system problems?
  • In your job, hobbies, or sports activities, do you do repetitive overhead arm movements?
  • How have your daily activities changed since your shoulder problem began? What types of activities and movements seem to be limited by your shoulder problems? Does your shoulder hurt when you:
    • Reach into a back pocket?
    • Sleep?
    • Reach overhead (such as to comb your hair)?

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerWilliam H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerTimothy Bhattacharyya, MD
Last RevisedNovember 30, 2011

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 30, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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