The muscles and tendons of your rotator cuff help secure your shoulder and help move it as well. The rotator cuff can become inflamed or irritated (tendinitis) for a variety of reasons. If this irritation causes fraying or bruising, the joint will become weakened and painful. Overhead reaching may become difficult. Inflammation can also lead to a build-up of calcium in the rotator cuff itself, which can inhibit movement and strength.
Severe tendinitis due to pinching (impingement) or degeneration or a traumatic fall can cause a partial or complete tear in the rotator cuff. This can result in shoulder pain, weakness and loss of normal movement.
An MRI (magnetic resonance image) would be helpful in diagnosing a rotator cuff tear but a definitive clinical history and exam are of paramount importance.
Treatment consists of a course of anti-inflammatories, icing, gentle stretching and physical therapy exercises. Partial tears and chronic tendinitis may respond well to this conservative management, but occasionally, it is necessary to surgically repair a tear and debride tissue as necessary.