Each year, almost 2 million people in the United States visit their doctors because of a rotator cuff injury, making it one of the most common shoulder injuries doctors see. Having an injured or torn rotator cuff can weaken your shoulder and make everyday activities more challenging and painful. It’s important to know what the most common rotator cuff injuries are, symptoms, and when to seek medical help.

Types of Rotator Cuff Injuries

Rotator cuff injuries can range from mild to severe. The most common types of injuries are tendinitis, bursitis, and strains/tears. 

Tendinitis – This is a condition in which the tendons connecting muscle to bone become inflamed and irritated. This injury is typically caused by overusing the rotator cuff and can lead to pain and tenderness just outside the joint. 

Bursitis – Your bursae are fluid-filled sacs that help reduce friction between the joints in your body. Some of these sacs sit between the rotator cuff tendons and the underlying bone and act as cushions. Bursitis is when bursae become inflamed due to overuse or frequent repetitive motion. The symptoms related to this condition include pain, swelling, and stiffness. 

Strains/Tears – The tendons that connect muscles to bones can overstretch (strain) or tear, partially or completely. The rotator cuff can also strain or tear after a fall, car accident, or other sudden injury. These injuries typically cause intense and immediate pain. Other symptoms include pain when lying on the injured shoulder, pain when lifting or lowering your arm or other specific movements, weakness when lifting or rotating your arm, or a cracking sensation when moving your shoulder in certain positions. 


If you have a shoulder injury and you keep using it despite the increasing pain, you may cause further damage. Early treatment can prevent your symptoms from getting worse. It will also get you back to your normal routine much quicker. 

If your shoulder pain is minor, there are treatments that you can try at home such as:

  • Avoiding activities that cause pain. 
  • Applying cold packs to your shoulder three to four times a day.
  • Taking anti-inflammatory medicine as directed by your doctor. 

If your pain is more moderate, Dr. Nelson may refer you to a physical therapist. Physical therapy will initially consist of stretching and other passive exercises to help restore range of motion and ease pain. Once the pain is manageable, you will learn other exercises to help regain strength in your arm and shoulder.

If you suffer from tendonitis, the recommended treatment may be cortisone or steroid injections. This can help relieve pain due to inflammation. 

If nonsurgical treatment isn’t successful, surgery may be necessary. If this is the case, take comfort knowing that most people experience full recovery after having rotator cuff surgery and return to their normal lifestyle quickly. 

If you’re suffering from any kind of shoulder injury, make your health a priority and schedule your appointment with Dr. Nelson today. He will ensure you’re receiving the appropriate treatment that will help minimize pain and promote mobility and functionality. To schedule your appointment with him, give us a call at 435-774-8511.