Emergency icon Important Updates
Doctor examining rotator cuff injury on a patient

Rotator Cuff Injuries

Why does a searing pain blaze through your shoulder anytime you brush your hair or pull a T-shirt over your head? Something’s up. And it doesn’t feel good.

Rotator cuff injuries can cause this kind of pain. And when you have one, all you can probably think about is how much it hurts. You may even wonder if you’ll ever be able to move your arm without pain again.

Cleveland Clinic’s expert healthcare providers are here to help. Our team understands that fluffing up your bedhead or getting dressed shouldn’t be a literal pain. We diagnose all rotator cuff injuries and provide highly personalized treatment to help you get back to moving more freely through your day.

Why Choose Cleveland Clinic for a Rotator Cuff Injury?

trusted experts icon

Trusted providers:

Our orthopaedic experts see more than 1,000 patients with rotator cuff injuries each year. They offer minimally invasive options and the latest treatments that are unique to each injury. Meet our team.

Specialized Equipment Icon

Specialized equipment:

Innovative tests let us take a close look at rotator cuff injuries. Unlike traditional MRIs, our 3 Tesla (3T) MRI doesn’t require a contrast agent injection in your shoulder. This can make testing more comfortable.

Innovation and Research Icon

Innovation and research:

Cleveland Clinic manages one of the largest U.S. research databases dedicated to tracking patient results following rotator cuff surgery. We study and use the data to find better ways to treat these injuries — today and into the future.

national recognition icon

National recognition:

Cleveland Clinic is a trusted healthcare leader. We're recognized in the U.S. and throughout the world for our expertise and care.

Virtual Consultation icon

Virtual visits:

When you’re recovering from surgery, there’s no place like home, so why leave for an in-person follow-up appointment? Our virtual visits let you and your providers meet online for quick check-ins.

Diagnosing Rotator Cuff Injuries at Cleveland Clinic

A group of shoulder muscles and tendons make up your rotator cuff. These muscles keep your shoulder joint stable and help it rotate safely. Damaging the soft tissues can make it hard to do everyday things like reaching, lifting and swinging your arm.

Rotator cuff injuries can range from chronic (ongoing) inflammation to muscle and tendon tears. The two most common injuries include:

When you have one of these injuries, it might be painful to raise your arm. And you might hear popping or clicking when you do. Shoulder pain may get worse at night. It can ache when you’re resting your arm. You may have weakness in your arm and shoulder, too. All are signs to get things checked out.

What to expect at your first visit

Symptoms like pain, weakness and tingling are important to confirm a diagnosis. So, when you come to your first appointment, your provider will look at your shoulder and ask you to move it in different ways. And they’ll ask questions about your symptoms, like:

  • What symptoms do you have?
  • What are you doing when you get these symptoms?
  • How long have you had symptoms?
  • How are your symptoms affecting your life?
  • Have you seen another provider about these symptoms?
  • Did you have imaging tests of your shoulder?

If you already had imaging tests, your provider will go over the results. If you haven’t had any, our team will schedule a convenient time to do them.

Imaging tests for rotator cuff injuries

Imaging tests help us look at rotator cuff injuries from the inside. They help us confirm a diagnosis and recommend the best treatment. To look at your rotator cuff, we may do an X-ray to look for any arthritis or bone spurs in your shoulder. We might also do an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or ultrasound to check for soft tissue tears or strains.

Meet Our Rotator Cuff Injuries Team

Our team-based care means providers from different specialties work together to build a treatment plan. If you come to Cleveland Clinic with a rotator cuff injury, you may see:


Our healthcare providers see patients at convenient locations throughout Northeast Ohio, Florida and London.

Treating Rotator Cuff Injuries at Cleveland Clinic

If we confirm you have a rotator cuff injury, we’ll work with you to craft a personalized treatment plan. We build this plan around your lifestyle and recovery goals, your test results and how bad your injury is.

Rest and pain management

For rotator cuff tendinitis, we may recommend that you avoid using your shoulder for several weeks. Ice, light stretching and pain medication may be a part of your treatment plan, too. As you recover, you may start doing physical therapy to strengthen the muscles supporting your shoulder joint.

Ultrasound-guided injections

You may also benefit from ultrasound-guided medication injections if you have chronic tendinitis or tendinosis. Ultrasound gives us a clear view of the tissue in your rotator cuff. This precision lets us inject the medicine into the troublesome area, giving you long-lasting pain relief. Ultrasound-guided injectables can include:

Rotator cuff surgery

Partial and complete rotator cuff tears often require surgery. We can usually do your surgery with minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery. With this procedure, we’ll use small incisions (cuts), special tools and a camera (arthroscope) to make repairs.

Before surgery, our anesthesiologist gives you a combination of a local anesthetic and light general anesthesia, so you’re asleep and don’t feel any pain. Your surgeon will then insert the arthroscope through a small incision in your shoulder, using images from this camera to repair your shoulder with tiny instruments inserted in other small incisions.

Recovering From Rotator Cuff Injuries

Typically, you can go home on the same day of your surgery. It’s important to understand that recovering from rotator cuff surgery can take several months. You’ll wear a sling to keep your arm from moving (immobilized) for about four to six weeks. Then you’ll start physical therapy. And while you’ll probably regain movement and strength within six months after surgery, full recovery can take up to 18 months.

Taking the Next Step

Everyday activities shouldn’t be a pain. If you’re living with rotator cuff discomfort and struggling to get through the day, it’s time to get help. Our experienced healthcare providers will determine exactly what’s causing your pain and work with you to find the best treatment to get your shoulder back to doing what it needs to do.

Getting an appointment with Cleveland Clinic’s rotator cuff injuries experts is easy. We’ll help you get the care you need.


Getting an appointment with Cleveland Clinic’s rotator cuff injuries experts is easy. We’ll help you get the care you need.

Manage your Cleveland Clinic account. Find billing information and financial assistance, plus FAQs.

Billing & Insurance

Manage your Cleveland Clinic account. Find billing information and financial assistance, plus FAQs.

Securely access your personal health information at any time, day or night.


Securely access your personal health information at any time, day or night.

Health Library
Back to Top