The “Rotator Cuff” is actually a group of shoulder muscles that function to keep the ball (head of humerus) seated and stable in the socket (glenoid of the scapula).
These muscles and their tendinous attachments are subject to sudden trauma and repeated micro-trauma, which can cause Rotator Cuff tears.
While traumatic rotator cuff tears usually occur quickly or under heavy load like a fall or lifting a heavy weight, the most common cause of a rotator cuff tear is repeated micro-trauma, which can occur over several weeks months or years.
Shoulder pain can start out as tendinitis which quickly resolves naturally when we are young. As we get older, the blood supply to the shoulder tendons isn’t as good, so things take longer to heal. Generally after the age of 40, the tendons become more fibrotic which is referred to as tendinosis.
Since things don’t heal as well with poor blood supply, little tears can occur in the rotator cuff which if left unattended may lead to big tears.
How Do You Know If You’ve Torn Your Rotator Cuff?
When you have a small rotator cuff tear you can often still raise your arm with or without pain.
Moderate tears are usually very painful and you’ll have difficulty moving your arm. Most patients can’t sleep or lie on that shoulder due to the relentless pain.
When a large tendon rupture occurs you may find that you are unable to lift your arm at all.
An ultrasound scan or MRI are two methods used to diagnose the size of a rotator cuff tear.
What’s the Best Treatment for a Rotator Cuff Tear?
Small and medium size rotator cuff tears usually heal successfully with appropriate rest and physical therapy treatment.
However, large rotator cuff tears may require surgery. But, don’t delay. The best results occur when the injury is fresh.
Please see your doctor if you have injured your shoulder or if your shoulder pain isn’t going away. Then start physical therapy right away to facilitate healing and learn specific exercises to strengthen your shoulder girdle and to resolve muscle imbalances / postural problems associated rotator cuff syndrome.