Rotator cuff disease

Shoulder pain

Rotator cuff disease is the most common cause of shoulder pain in adults. The rotator cuff is made of a group of tendons and muscles that surround the shoulder joint and keep the head of your upper arm bone firmly within the shoulder socket. The rotator cuff tendons provide stability to the shoulder; the muscles allow the shoulder to rotate. Damage to the rotator cuff can cause pain and significantly impact your activities and quality of life.

Why did my rotator cuff tear?

Rotator cuff problems are caused by a variety of factors including genetics, trauma, age or activity-related injury. The most common cause is a progressive disease called degenerative tendinosis.

As we age, our rotator cuff tendons wear out like a well-worn pair of jeans. These tendons are subject to stress and wear and have poor blood supply. Over time, the tendon becomes thinner and becomes more susceptible to tearing. As this degeneration progresses, rotator cuff tears can become increasingly larger and more painful.


You may feel pain on the side and front of your upper arm and shoulder and experience difficulty sleeping on that shoulder. You may also find overhead movements painful. As the tear becomes larger you may notice weakness.

Progression of tears


  1. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website, accessed April 18, 2018:

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