Most of the athletes and often non-athletes rely on their physical strength for various activities and tend to overuse their joints and muscles to outperform in the game or routine life. This tendency sometimes leads to a series of consequences and rotator cuff injuries is one of them. Do you know that the most common sports injury and cause of shoulder problem are rotator cuff injuries? Moreover, if these injuries are not treated well, then it can leave an impact on their sports career as well as regular daily activities. This is the reason that one should consult a specialist for adequate care and the right treatment. The prime challenge is to find the exact cause of shoulder pain as sometimes the symptoms of rotator cuff impingement seem to be similar to rotator cuff tear. Let’s discuss the difference to clear off the layer of confusion.

Understanding the anatomy

Shoulder joint constituents three bones termed as the clavicle, scapular bone, and humerus. But this ball and socket joint is not stable enough to perform the movements with grace. Many ligaments and muscles wrap this joint to provide stability and strength. The main ligaments present in this complex joint are named- Glenohumeral ligaments, Coracoacrmial arch, and Coracoclavicular & acromioclavicular ligaments. These ligaments keep the joint intact and maintain integrity. There are many muscles present in a shoulder joint and serve different purposes. The muscles are:

  • Rotator Cuff

These act as stabilizers for the joint and consist of 4 different muscles to form a cuff that is strong enough to hold the humeral head in its place during any shoulder movement. These muscles are:

  • Infraspinatus: helps in shoulder rotation and extend
  • Teres minor: assists in rotary movement
  • Supraspinatus: allows internal rotation
  • Subscapularis: helps in lifting the arm
  • Scapulothoracic muscles

These muscles connect the scapular bone to the axial skeleton. It comprises of rhomboids, trapezius, and levator scapulae muscles.

  • Biceps

The long head of the Biceps (one of the origins of the biceps muscle from inside the joint) assists to hold the joint in place and allow several movements like arm raising, elbow bending, etc.

  • Deltoid Muscles

These provide strength to the shoulder joint in various movements and comprise deltoid and pectoral muscles.

Digging into the difference between Rotator cuff impingement & tear

  • Rotator cuff impingement

It is a severe injury that can eventually lead to other shoulder problems. Although it is not a complete tear, but can’t be taken lightly as the tendons present near the shoulder joint are inflamed. So, whenever the bones come in contact with these swollen tendons, an intense pain stirs up in the body and progresses to further complications. The range of rotator cuff impingement goes from tendon inflammation to thickening & scarring of the bursa that is present in the affected region.


The causes of this shoulder problem can be the following:

  • Wear & tear of muscles due to ageing
  • Repetitive movements
  • Traumatic injury to the shoulder
  • Overhead or overstretched arm movements


  • Sharp pain that intensifies with overhead movements
  • Experiencing pain while:
  • Moving the hand behind the back
  • Raising the arm
  • Lying on the shoulder
  • Swinging the arms
  • Lifting the arms


  • Rotator Cuff Tear

It can be further classified into 2 types. These are:

  • Partial tear: only a segment of the muscle is torn
  • Complete tear: the entire muscle is torn and can even cause damage to the tendon


It can be caused due to a direct or indirect blow on the shoulders or while lifting very heavy-weights. Continuous strain on the shoulders due to overuse and repetitive movements can also lead to this problem.


Although the symptoms of this shoulder problem are similar to the rotator cuff impingement, there is a slight difference. The patient may experience some weakness along with pain or/and a popping sound during any shoulder movement.

One may feel the weakness while performing the following movements:

  • Raising the arm
  • Lifting objects above his shoulder level
  • Punching any object

The torn rotator cuff can lead to a dark life and needs immediate medical help. So don’t neglect the shoulder pain and get a diagnosis made under expert supervision. It will help you to know the exact cause and its severity so that the doctor can plan the treatment procedure accordingly.

If you are looking for an experienced shoulder surgeon in Gurgaon, consult Dr. Reetadyuti Mukhopadhyay. He will try to heal the problem while following the most effective approach.

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