What is rotator cuff tear?


Know the basics

What is rotator cuff tear?

The rotator cuff is a group of four tendons and muscles that converge around the shoulder joint at the top of the humerus, the upper arm bone above the elbow. They help hold your arm in place and allow it to move in different directions. While your shoulder is one of your most mobile joints, it’s easy to get weak. A Rotator cuff tear is a partial or full thickness tear of one or more rotator cuff tendons.

How common is rotator cuff tear?

Rotator cuff tear most often occurs in athletes, especially those who are baseball players, pitchers, swimmers, tennis players and football players.

Know the symptoms

What are the symptoms of rotator cuff tear?

Signs and symptoms of Rotator cuff tear might include:

  • Pain in the shoulder and arm, which varies depending on how serious the tear is.
  • Weakness and tenderness in the shoulder.
  • Difficulty moving the shoulder, especially when trying to lift your arm above your head.
  • Snapping or crackling sounds when moving the shoulder.
  • Inability to sleep on the shoulder.

There may be some signs or symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor or pharmacist.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs and symptoms of Rotator cuff tear, please consult your doctor.

Know the causes

What causes rotator cuff tear?

Trauma can cause Rotator cuff tear. Tears most often occurs during activities or jobs in which you move your arm overhead or raised and lowered repeatedly. Abrupt stress may even cause one of the tendons to pull away from the bone or tear in the middle of the tendon. 

The following may trigger or worsen your conditions:

  • Use addictive pain medicines as long-term therapy. You might be addicted to those medication, and your condition may also get worse.
  • Do activities which make you use your hands above your head.
  • Do pushups and strenuous sports while your shoulder heals.

Know the risk factors

What increases my risk for rotator cuff tear?

There are many risk factors for Rotator cuff tear, such as:

  • Falling on your shoulder.
  • Using an arm to break a fall.
  • Lifting heavy weights.
  • Playing sports and do activities that make you use your hands above your head repeatedly.
  • The tendon might get weaker when you age.

Understand the diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is rotator cuff tear diagnosed?

Your doctor will perform a physical examination and ask about the event in which you get the condition to determine whether you have Rotator cuff tear. Other tests you might need include:

  • X-ray of the shoulder with some special views.
  • MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging).
  • Arthrogram, a special type of X-ray or MRI done after a dye is injected into joint; this will allow your doctor to see more detail.
  • Arthroscopy, a minimally invasive surgical procedure in which a tiny camera is inserted into the shoulder joint to get a look at the rotator cuff Arthroscopy is usually not done unless it is likely that you will need a surgical repair based on the other non-surgical tests.

How is rotator cuff tear treated?

In some cases, your condition might be treated with nonsurgical methods. Your doctor may prescribe medications such as NSAIDs to help inflammation and pain.

Exercise and physical therapy might be helpful to improve your Rotator cuff tear which will make your shoulder stronger and help reduce pain. You can also put ice packs on your shoulder after exercise as a pain reliever.

In some severe cases, you may need surgery which involves removing the undersurface of the acromion, fixing other inflamed parts and repairing the rotator cuff tear.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage rotator cuff tear?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with Rotator cuff tear:

  • Take your medication exactly as directed by your doctor.
  • Try to do tasks with your unaffected arms.
  • Do exercise and physical therapy as your doctor recommends.
  • Contact your doctor if you have pain which is severe enough to keep you from sleeping at night or the pain is not reduced with pain relievers.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: December 27, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017

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