If you suspect that you have a rotator cuff tear, it’s important to know where the pain is located, and when you will likely feel it.

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A rotator cuff tear can be a painful, debilitating injury. It can happen to anyone, and it’s common among people who do things that require repetitive arm movement or overhead lifting.

The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles and tendons that stabilize the ball-and-socket joint so that the bigger muscles around the shoulder can move the arm overhead, out away from the body, and behind the back. Someone with a rotator cuff injury can have pain with these movements.

When it comes to recognizing a rotator cuff tear, the first thing you should look for is shoulder pain. This pain is not just felt in the back or outside of the shoulder, which are common, but also in the upper arm. Sometimes a person with a rotator cuff tear notices upper arm pain without feeling shoulder pain at all. And the upper arm pain can be felt down to the level of the elbow. It rarely goes below the elbow into he forearm, hand or fingers. If you have pain in the hand or fingers, it can be a sign of a different problem, such as neck or cervical spine conditions.

Also, pain from a rotator cuff injury is mostly felt with certain activities, especially reaching overhead, out away from the body, and behind the back. If the rotator cuff tendon has a full-thickness tear, the person might experience not just pain, but also weakness with these movements.

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