Rotator Cuffs: What You Need to Know

What you need to know about Rotator Cuff Tears

The rotator cuff is composed of a group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint. The rotator cuff allows the head of the upper arm bone to stay in place firmly within the shallow socket of the shoulder and helps you move your arm.

A rotator cuff tear is a common injury. A tear can occur due to the wear-and-tear process. In other words, the more a person ages, the more likely it is for that person to suffer a rotator cuff injury. However, rotator cuff injuries don’t just occur as you age. Overuse is another factor that comes into play when discussing the injury. For instance, a tennis player or a carpenter has constant overhead movements that over time can cause a tear. Nevertheless, a rotator cuff tear does not always occur after prolonged use either. A tear can also occur suddenly. Let’s say you fall on your arm or lift something heavy. Guess what? You may have suffered a rotator cuff tear.

Here at Healthpointe we strive take care of your needs. With board-certified orthopedics, we can help diagnose and help treat your injuries, including rotator cuff tears. If you have any questions please feel free to give us a call at 888-719-8448. You can always stop by our Temecula office near Murrieta, Fallbrook, Wildomar, Canyon Lake, and Sun City or any of our other offices. Remember, your injuries deserve the best quality.

Two Types of Rotator Cuff Tears

There are two kinds of rotator cuff tears. A partial tear, in which one of the tendons of the shoulder is damaged, and then there is a complete tear. The complete tear happens when the tear goes all the way through the tendon or pulls the tendon off of the bone. Both tears can be extremely painful.

However, there aren’t always typical symptoms with a rotator cuff tear. That does not mean that there are no symptoms associated with an RTF. The most common symptoms are:

  • Trouble raising your arm.
  • Pain when you are moving the arm in a certain way.
  • Pain while lying on your arm
  • Weakness in the shoulder.
  • Apparent swelling.
  • Hearing or feeling a clicking or popping sound when moving your arm.

How do you diagnose a rotator cuff tear?

In the initial examination the doctor will go over the history of injuries. The physician will perform a physical examination of the shoulder. In the physical exam the physician may check the range of motion, muscle strength, and examine the types of movements that cause pain. In addition to the physical examination, it is possible that your healthcare provider will order diagnostic testing, such as:

  • X-rays to see if the top of the arm bone is pushing into the rotator cuff space.
  • An MRI, which will provide a detailed image of the shoulder.
  • An ultrasound, which allows the physician to see the soft tissue in the shoulder tendon.

The treatment does not always include surgery. In some cases, the doctor will start the patient on a combination of physical therapy and pain medications/anti-inflammatory medications. The physical therapy will help the shoulder muscles become stronger, while the medications help with pain and swelling. Injections to help with the pain and inflammation may also be offered.

However, in some situations, and depending on the gravity of the injury, the physician will have to perform surgery. When it comes to surgery, there are three types of rotator cuff surgery.

  • The arthroscopic method allows the surgeon to repair the tear through small incisions in the shoulder using an arthroscope (small tube with a camera) and tiny medical instruments.
  • The open method allows your surgeon to go into the shoulder and fix the tear in one large incision.
  • Lastly, the mini-open method is a combination of the arthroscopic and open method. In this method, the surgeon starts with the arthroscope and finishes the repair with the larger medical instruments.

Recovery time is always different for everyone, but generally, the recovery time is four to six weeks. Remember, the aftercare, including rest and eventually physical therapy, is crucial and all instructions given by your physician should be taken seriously.

Medically Reviewed by: Roman Shulze, MD

Have you ever experienced a rotator cuff tear? Do you have any tips on how to avoid them? If so, then please leave a comment below!

About Jessica Pena

Jessica is a health blogger and content writer for Healthpointe, a healthcare organization specializing in orthopedics, sports injuries, injured workers, and more. Whatever it is you need to know – whether it’s the latest treatments for hernias, or tips for quick headache relief (and everything in between) – Jessica has you covered. For more of Jessica, check out her articles on the Healthpointe blog.

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