05 Oct 2018

The Real Score on Rotator Cuff Tears

Man with shoulder injury

According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS), rotator cuff tears are among the most common causes of disability and pain among adults. A rotator cuff tear would weaken the affected shoulder. This means various daily activities, such as getting dressed or even reaching for something on the shelf, could be difficult and painful to do.

Doctor Mitchell Larsen shares some pieces of information regarding this condition.

How Does a Rotator Cuff Get Torn?

According to a top orthopedic surgeon, a rotator cuff tear could be caused by a single incident, such as lifting something that’s too heavy or falling on an outstretched hand or arm. Most rotator cuff tears, however, are degenerative, meaning they resulted from the natural wear and tear of the body as it ages. Various factors come into play with degenerative tears, such as lifting, painting, reaching to and from elevated shelves, repetitive arm movements when performing daily tasks, or when playing sports such as baseball or swimming. Other common causes include bad posture, bony spurs, and reduced blood supply to the shoulder, which are common in aging individuals.

How Would You Know If You have a Torn Rotator Cuff

Not all tears cause pain because some are due to degenerative conditions, which means a rotator cuff could be damaged for several months, even years, prior to symptoms appearing. That said, common symptoms of rotator cuff injuries usually include the following:

  • Tenderness or pain when reaching up
  • Pain in the affected shoulder, particularly at night
  • Avoiding activities that could cause or exacerbate the pain
  • Difficulty reaching behind your back
  • Reduce range of motion of the shoulder
  • Progressive weakness of the affected shoulder

How Do You Treat a Rotator Cuff Tear?

The first line of treatment for rotator cuff tears includes pain management and restoring full function of the affected shoulder. This usually involves taking anti-inflammatory drugs, physical therapy, refraining from doing tasks that aggravate the pain, and special exercises. If these are not enough, you might need corticosteroid injections to manage the pain.

If conservative treatments and corticosteroid injections still don’t get the job done, you might need a surgery, especially if you’re young or if you suffer from significantly poor shoulder function, weakness, or long-term symptoms. If the symptoms manifest for more than a week or you suddenly lose shoulder function, get medical attention right away to prevent your rotator cuff tear from worsening.

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