ZocdocAnswersHow can you tell if you have injured your rotator cuff?

Question

How can you tell if you have injured your rotator cuff?

Was horsing around with some buddies and heard a cracking sound in my shoulder. Now, moving it in certain directions causes a lot of pain and lifting my arm straight out and up is almost impossible. Did I tear my rotator cuff or injure it? Is there another kind of shoulder injury I could have?

Answer

This is a medical emergency, and you need to seek immediate medical attention, either in your primary care doctor's office or, if you can't get in right away, by going now to an emergency room. There are several possible types of shoulder injury, but the immediate ones that need to be ruled out are a broken bone in the shoulder and a dislocation of the shoulder. Both of these can give the symptoms you are experiencing, and they both require immediate care. Your doctor or the emergency room will examine the shoulder and may also get some x-rays to help figure this out. If you have not dislocated your shoulder or broken a bone, then a rotator cuff injury is likely. Your doctor will also be able to sort this out by have you perform various maneuvers at the shoulder to figure out exactly where the pain and weakness is. If it is a rotator cuff injury, treatment will depend on the severity and could vary from rest, ice and anti inflammatory medications to a referral to an orthopedic specialist. Regardless, your first step here is to be seen immediately by your doctor to get to the bottom of this serious problem.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.