The rotator cuff is the group of muscles and tendons surrounding the shoulder joint. This group of muscles and tendons has the important job of keeping the top of the arm within the shoulder joint, and is used whenever moving the arm/shoulder, specifically when lifting the arms above the head or across the body.
What Is a Rotator Cuff Tear?
A rotator cuff tear means one or more of the tendons or muscles comprising the rotator cuff has sustained a tear. In most cases, this occurs in the supraspinatus tendon.
Rotator cuff tears often begin as fraying, but can progress to a partial or complete tear as the damage progresses.
Some signs of a tear in the rotator cuff include:
- Pain at rest and night, especially when lying on one side
- Pain with specific movements such as lifting and lowering the arm
- Crackling when moving the shoulder, a certain way
- Weakness when lifting or rotating the arm
- Intense pain (typically from tears that occur suddenly from a fall or other accident)
What Causes the Rotator Cuff to Tear?
If you fall and land on an outstretched arm, you may tear your rotator cuff due to the arm’s position and the force exerted when hitting the ground. Those who fall or sustain other injuries, such as a dislocated shoulder or broken collarbone, may also have a torn rotator cuff due to the damage to the area surrounding the shoulder.
Lifting Something Heavy
If you lift something too heavy and use a quick, jerking motion as you do so, you can tear your rotator cuff.
When the rotator cuff is repetitively used in the same manner, the rotator cuff can fray and then potentially tear due to the repeated strain. Some sports that commonly lead to rotator cuff tears due to their Repetitive Motions include tennis, baseball, rowing, and weightlifting. However, some individuals may have jobs requiring repetitive motions using the rotator cuff, which can also lead to a wear-and-tear injury as it is repeated over time.
Bone spurs, which are areas of bone overgrowth, are more likely to occur as we age. They are very common on the underside of the acromion bone, which is located next to the clavicle, and this placement means that, when lifting your arms, the spurs rub against the rotator cuff tendon. As this continually occurs over time, the tendon can become weak and tear.
How To Treat Rotator Cuff Tears
Early treatment with one of our doctors at Injury Doctors NYC with rotator cuff injuries helps to prevent pain and other symptoms from getting worse.
Some non-surgical treatments include:
- Avoiding activities that cause shoulder pain
- Acing NSAIDs
- Undergoing physical therapy
- Steroid injections
- Regenerative medicine injections
Your doctor at Injury Doctors NYC can help you choose a treatment that best supports your case.
Most rotator cuff tears can be remedied using the above non-surgical treatments, but a few cases may need surgery. This may be because the non-surgical methods did not reduce pain or if you are very active/use your arm overhead for work or have a large tear.
Rotator Cuff tears are painful and uncomfortable injuries that can occur suddenly or develop over time. If you notice pain in your rotator cuff, be sure to visit a doctor so that they can examine the extent of damage and help find the best treatment option for you.