What are the symptoms of a rotator cuff tear? Generally, if the tear is a supraspinatus tendon tear, which most are, the symptoms begin with abduction of the arm. Remember, supraspinatus is responsible for abduction (when the arm moves away from the side of the body) of the arm to the first 15 degrees of movement. If there is a pinpointed, almost pinching pain on the lateral aspect of upper shoulder, this is indicative of a rotator cuff tear. The lateral aspect of the upper shoulder is sometimes hard to pinpoint. An anatomically correct position has you standing with your palms forward. This positions the shoulder correctly and the pain will be on the outside upper shoulder under the deltoid muscle. Most of us roll our shoulders forward, meaning that this lateral upper aspect moves forward and, if you point to your pain in this position, it looks like it is in the front of the shoulder.
A further symptom of a rotator cuff tear is pain while doing lateral rotation of the shoulder. So, if you bring your arm or the clients arm to an almost 90 degree angle and actively rotate the arm toward the back, there will once again be a sharp, pinching, pinpointed pain on the lateral aspect of the upper shoulder. Also, quick movements tend to create this same pain in the same area, and a tightening of the area, which is a protective response to the pain. Additionally, a rotator cuff tear will leave the shoulder feeling weak and you will not be able to sleep on it or put any pressure on it.