4 Warning Signs You May Have Torn Your Rotator Cuff

A rotator cuff tear is a shoulder injury characterized by a rip in your rotator cuff tendons or muscles. It can happen due to sudden trauma, such as when you fall or get injured playing sports. Alternatively, a rotator cuff tear can happen slowly over time due to natural wear and tear. The injury can be partial or full-thickness depending on how much of the tendon or muscle is torn. 

Whatever the case, nonetheless, a rotator cuff is a serious injury that can significantly limit your arm mobility. This is because it affects your shoulder, which is the joint with the widest range of motion in the body. To help you get back in shape faster, here are four signs you should see an orthopedic specialist like Dr. Ronald Hess West Chester for rotator cuff tear treatment.

Dull, Aching Shoulder Pain

A common symptom of a rotator cuff tear, and often the first to appear, is shoulder pain. Rotator cuff shoulder pain often presents in the front of the joint but may radiate across your deltoid muscles and into your arms. If your injury is trauma-related, the pain is often severe and sudden. 

You may have gotten a glimpse of this from athletes falling to the floor clutching their shoulders after impact. In contrast, degenerative rotator cuff tears are often mild and occasional at first, progressing into more frequent and severe pain as the tear advances.

Reduced Arm Mobility

As already mentioned, your shoulder has the widest range of motion of any joint in your body. This is why reduced or lost shoulder and arm mobility is the most tell-tale sign of a rotator cuff tear. 

You may experience pain or weakness when using your arm, which can make daily activities like driving and getting dressed difficult or impossible. Usually, a small tear may allow you some range of motion as the pain is milder. However, a full tear is more painful and can cause arm disability.


Crepitus is the medical term for the unusual sensations or sounds that occur in a damaged joint. When you move a shoulder with a rotator cuff injury, you may experience sounds like grating, crackling, clicking, or popping.

These sounds are often caused by a buildup of air bubbles in the joint or the action of tendons or ligaments snapping over your bones. In other cases, crepitus is caused by bone rubbing against bone due to misalignment in the joint.

Muscle Weakness

If a rotator cuff tear remains untreated for an extended period, it may cause your shoulder and arm muscles to weaken or atrophy. The level of degeneration will usually depend on how severe the tear is and how long you have stayed with the injury without treatment. Remember, the longer you fail to treat weakened or atrophied muscles, the more difficult it will be for them to recover.  

Never Ignore a Rotator Cuff Injury

Rotator cuff injuries tend to get worse when ignored. So, rather than wait for your symptoms to go away, you should contact an orthopedic specialist immediately. They will perform imaging and physical tests to determine the extent, type, and location of injury. From there, they will determine the best treatment to help you regain your full range of motion. 

In case of a severe tear, you may require surgery, which your orthopedic specialist will perform safely under anesthesia. Call an orthopedic surgeon today to learn more about how you can regain shoulder function.