Should pain, stiffness, weakness, and loss of range of motion are all common symptoms of rotator cuff injuries. People with rotator cuff injuries sight pain, especially at night, as a symptom. Movement of the arm over the head, or reaching behind the back could cause pain as well. Patients report feeling the most stiffness in the injured shoulder when getting out of bed. Muscle weakness with lifting the arm, or holding it away from the body may be difficult. A rotator cuff injury may also result in loss of normal range of motion.
Shoulders are complex joints that are capable of great strength and flexibility. But the complexity of the shoulder also makes it prone to injury, and rotator cuff injuries are common. Rotator cuff injuries can happen via trauma, tissue degeneration, and shoulder impingement. Baseball pitchers are at a higher risk for rotator cuff injuries because of their constant throwing motion.
Traumatic event causing shoulder pain
Breaking a fall with an outstretched arm, lifting heavy weight, or placing great force or strain on the shoulder, can all be causes of an acute rotator cuff injury.
Degeneration in the shoulder
As we age or from overuse (think pitchers) the rotator cuff degenerates, especially in older adults. Tiny tears develop in the shoulder, making it weaker and prone to larger tears, making it possible for larger tears to occur without any notable trauma.
Shoulder impingement syndrome describes the painful pinching of muscles, tendons or other soft tissue that is sandwiched between the bottom of the scapula’s acromion and the top of the ball-and-socket joint. Structural issues or functional issues can cause the impingement.
Structural issues like compressed space between the acromion and humerus being too small. This can happen when there is a hooked acromion, thickening of ligaments under the acromion, or degenerative changes in the joint.
Bad biomechanics can cause functional issues and a series of events in the shoulder causing rotator cuff injuries. This happens when the ball-and-socket joint and the muscles around it are fatigued creating a lack of stability.