My Torn Rotator Cuff Hurts With a Lateral Arm Raise

The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that stabilizes the shoulder joint. Rotator cuff tears are common orthopedic injuries typically arising from falls, lifting heavy items and repetitive arm movement. If you are experiencing pain or inflammation when raising your arm laterally, you may require added treatment for your rotator cuff injury.

Why My Torn Rotator Cuff Hurts With a Lateral Arm Raise?

Rotator Cuff

The rotator cuff is made up of 4 muscles, each connecting the upper arm bone, or humerus, to the shoulder blade, or scapula. The function of these muscles depends entirely on where they place their tendons into the humerus and scapula. For example, the supraspinatus muscle comes from on the upper part of the scapula and inserts on the outside of the humerus. When this muscle agreements, the arm is raised laterally. Pain with this kind of motion is highly a sign of an issue in the supraspinatus muscle or tendon.

Supraspinatus Muscle and Tendon

According to Harrison’s Internal Medication, rotator cuff pain typically is triggered by inflammation of the supraspinatus tendon. The tendonitis seen in these cases usually is caused by impingement of the tendon in between several bones in the shoulder joint. When the arm is raised laterally, the tendon end up being caught in between these bones, often lowering blood supply and triggering more damage and pain.

torn rotator cuff symptoms

Impingement Syndrome and Tendonitis

Symptoms of impingement typically present after injury or overuse. Baseball, tennis, swimming and any activity needing you to repeatedly elevate your arm are prone to produce this syndrome. It is common to experience a dull aching in the shoulder, with severe pain when raising the arm laterally and into an overhead position. This condition can be managed conservatively with NSAIDs, glucocorticoid injection and physical therapy. If improvement is not seen, surgery may be required to decompress the swollen tendon. Neglected inflammation can result in tendon weakening and degeneration. Overuse that produces significant stress on the suprascapular tendon and muscle might lead either structure to tear or strain.


Another important structure in the rotator cuff that can produce pain with lateral motion is the subacromial bursa. This fluid-filled sac generally helps with movement of the shoulder, serving to cushion the area between bones and muscle of the rotator cuff. The subacromial bursa can end up being swollen and irritated with overuse, therefore producing symptoms of pain with motion.



Updated: August 18, 2016 — 5:39 am

The Author

Reyus Mammadli

Healthy lifestyle advisor. Bachelor Degree of Medical Equipment and Electronics.
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