Rotator Cuff Tear

A rotator cuff tear is a common injury that makes it difficult to raise or move the arm. The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons in the shoulder. Anyone can experience a rotator cuff tear, but it is more prevalent in the elderly. Tears can be partial or complete and sometimes require surgery in severe injuries.


Falling on an outstretched arm, lifting something heavy, or lifting something with a quick jerking motion are all common ways to cause a rotator cuff tear. Tears can also happen with normal wear as a result of aging or with overuse from repetitive movements. Additionally, factors such as poor posture and smoking are also associated with rotator cuff injuries.


When a rotator cuff tear occurs, intense shoulder pain will be experienced, followed by weakness and inability to move the arm. Pain is often experienced even when resting. Not everyone will experience pain immediately, but it will increase over time. A popping or clicking sensation is also possible when moving the arm.


Physicians will diagnose a rotator cuff tear after asking about symptoms and conducting a physical exam to test for arm strength and range of motion. Imaging tests such as x-rays and MRIs may also be used to confirm the diagnosis.


Rotator cuff tears are typically treated with a sling, anti-inflammatory medications, corticosteroid injections, and physical therapy to improve functionality and reduce pain. If pain does not improve or if a complete tear has occurred, surgery may be required.

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