A rotator cuff tear is a tear of one or more of the tendons of the four rotator cuff muscles. A rotator cuff injury can include any type of irritation or damage to the rotator cuff muscles or tendons.
There are two main causes of rotator cuff tears: injury & degeneration. You can tear your rotator cuff if you fall down on your outstretched arm or lift something too heavy with a jerking motion. Or this type of tear can occur with other shoulder injuries, such as broken collarbone or dislocated shoulder.
Chronic tears however, are the result of a wearing down of the tendon slowly over time, usually occurring as we age. You have a greater chance of degenerative rotator cuff tears when the same shoulder motion is repeated again and again in a job, routine chores, or most frequently in sports activities. Lack of blood supply as we age can ultimately lead to a tendon tear.
The pain with a sudden tear after a fall or injury is intense and is often accompanied by weakness of the shoulder and arm. Chronic rotator cuff tears include a gradual worsening of pain, weakness and stiffness or loss of motions. Over time, the pain and other symptoms become much worse.