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Rotator-cuff injuries: What to know when your shoulder is injured

While it's not always the most serious of injuries, an injury to the rotator cuff can be life-altering. The rotator cuff is a group of muscles that help you rotate and move your shoulder joint. When any of these are injured, you may feel pain or have weakness that makes it impossible to use your arm normally.

The point of the rotator-cuff muscles and tendons is to keep the head of the upper arm bone in the shoulder socket. If these tendons or muscles are damaged in any way, there is the potential for the head of the bone to pop out of place or to become misaligned.

How do you know if you have a rotator-cuff injury?

Normally, a rotator-cuff injury causes a dull ache, which you can feel in the shoulder joint. For people with this injury, their shoulders often get more painful when they try to sleep on that side of the body.

What causes rotator-cuff injuries?

They're most common for workers who develop repetitive-strain injuries and those who often perform overhead motions. However, a single injury to the shoulder can lead to damage to this area of the body. For instance, a torn rotator-cuff tendon could happen if you fall and catch yourself oddly or if you are impacted in a car crash.

How are rotator-cuff injuries treated?

For the most part, these injuries heal on their own with weeks of rest. However, seeing a doctor is necessary for a diagnosis. He or she will need to monitor the rotator cuff's recovery and determine if rehabilitation or other treatments are necessary. Medications may be provided for pain relief. In cases where there is significant damage, surgery may be necessary to repair tendons or replace the joint completely.

Who is most at risk for a rotator-cuff injury?

The people most at risk include athletes who use repetitive arm motions, like pitchers, tennis players and archers, those who work in construction and use overhead motions and older individuals. Rotator-cuff injuries are more common for those 40 and older. Finally, if there is a history of rotator-cuff injuries in your family, then you could be at a higher risk of developing this injury.

If you have pain in your shoulder, seek medical help right away. Without treatment, this condition can lead to a permanent loss of motion, degeneration of the joint and weakness. With good care, it's possible to reverse the damage. If your injury was the result of an accident or due to repetitive motion while working, see an attorney regarding your eligibility for compensation.

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