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Rotator Cuff Disorders (cont.)

What Increases Your Risk

Things that may increase the risk of rotator cuff disorders include:

  • Aging.
  • Having long-standing rotator cuff tendinitis.
  • Holding or moving your arm overhead frequently, such as when you regularly paint; work as a waiter; or play tennis, baseball, and other throwing sports.
  • Previous shoulder injuries, such as dislocations and broken bones.
  • Having a rotator cuff tear in the other shoulder.
  • Irregularities of the muscles, tendons, and bones in the shoulder that increase wear on the rotator cuff tendons.
  • Having received multiple corticosteroid injections in the shoulder, which may weaken tendons and increase your risk.
  • Smoking, which decreases the blood supply and slows the healing process.
  • Shoulder instability.

As the rotator cuff and the shoulder weaken, the risk for a partial or complete tearClick here to see an illustration. increases.

When To Call a Doctor

Call or other emergency services immediately if shoulder pain or weakness occurs with chest pain, shortness of breath, sweating, or nausea.

Call your doctor immediately if you have an injury to your shoulder and:

  • Your shoulder is very painful.
  • Your shoulder appears to be deformed.
  • You cannot move your shoulder normally.
  • You have signs of damage to the nerves or blood vessels, such as numbness; tingling; a "pins-and-needles" sensation below the injury; or pale, cold, or bluish skin.

Call your doctor if:

  • You have had a shoulder problem in the past and you have shoulder pain.
  • Your shoulder pain or stiffness is getting worse.
  • Home treatment is not helping.

Watchful waiting

Watchful waiting is a period of time during which you and your doctor observe your symptoms or condition without using medical treatment. A watchful waiting period may vary from a few days to weeks or possibly months. Watchful waiting is not appropriate if:

  • Pain in your shoulder is unbearable.
  • Your shoulder is deformed.
  • You have loss of feeling in the shoulder.
  • The skin around your shoulder is pale, cold, or bluish.

Who to see

Health professionals who can diagnose and manage rotator cuff disorders include:

For treatment, you may be referred to a specialist, such as:

To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.

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