Rotator Cuff Tear
The following describes the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of rotator cuff tear. For specific information regarding your health and treatment options, please contact your
What is rotator cuff tear?
A rotator cuff tear is a tear in the tendons that form part of the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff is made up of several muscles and tendons that surround and protect the shoulder joint. The rotator cuff attaches the upper arm bone (humerus) to the shoulder joint, allowing the arm to lift and rotate.
What causes rotator cuff tear?
Blunt trauma is one of the most common causes of rotator cuff tear. It may occur in conjunction with another shoulder injury, including dislocations or separations. It also can be caused by overuse while engaging in a sport or other activity that requires an overhead motion (for example, basketball, tennis or weightlifting). Rotator cuff tears often appear in older people whose muscles and tendons have lost elasticity.
What are the symptoms of rotator cuff tear?
Typical symptoms of rotator cuff tear include pain when lifting the arm or lowering it from a lifted position, a crackling or cracking sound when moving the shoulder, and/or weakness when lifting or rotating the arm. If you experience severe, limited or complete loss of motion, seek medical care, especially if you are unable to move both shoulders.
How is rotator cuff tear diagnosed?
Your Hurley physician will conduct a complete physical exam to assess shoulder stability and strength, range of motion, levels of pain or tenderness, and whether or not there is a visible or physical deformity. To pinpoint the location and severity of the injury, an MRI, x-rays or ultrasound testing may be called for.
How is rotator cuff tear treated?
Your Hurley physician will recommend a customized treatment approach, based on your age, overall health, activity levels, and the location and seriousness of the injury. For less sever injuries, nnonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) may be used to minimize pain, and you may be told to apply ice packs to the injury for 20 minutes every 2-3 hours for the first few days (using a cloth between the ice pack and the skin to prevent injury to the skin). You may be required to wear a sling for several days or weeks, and will be instructed to avoid movements that involve lifting your arm above the shoulder.
Other non-surgical treatment alternatives include massage to increase blood flow to the area, corticosteroid injections and shoulder-strengthening exercises.
Arthroscopic surgery, followed by a period of physical therapy, may be recommended if your symptoms do not subside over time or if the torn rotator cuff fails to heal. If the tear is particularly severe, open-shoulder surgery may be required. Following any surgery, your shoulder will be immobilized using a sling for a period of time before beginning physical therapy.