The rotator cuff is the group of four tendons that stabilize the shoulder joint and help to lift the arms overhead. The tendons connect to the four muscles that move the shoulder. Rotator cuff damage can occur from an acute injury or as a result of repetitive strains and wear and tear to the tendons. This happens more often in people who do work or play sports that involve repetitive, overhead movements, such as tennis. Minor strain injuries can progress to a partial tear of the tendons or a complete rupture of the muscles with loss of shoulder joint function. However, a complete tear can also occur without symptoms; this often occurs in older adults who are less active.
Pain from a rotator cuff injury can develop gradually, beginning at the time of the injury or days afterward. Over time, the pain will continue to grow in intensity until moving the shoulder joint at all causes extreme discomfort.
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