What Is A
Rotator Cuff Tear...
And How Do You Fix
While not the most common shoulder sports injury, a rotator
cuff tear can be
a very limiting. With causes ranging from overuse to traumatic
injury, you can tear your rotator cuff in many different sports and
throwing activities are the most common sports
associated with rotator cuff injury, however, tennis, football,
swimming, and other upper body activities can also contribute.
Understanding how your rotator cuff injury occurs,
appropriate treatments, and prevention can all help to keep you off the
is the Rotator Cuff?
Your rotator cuff is a group of four muscles
surrounding the shoulder.
They all attach along the head of the humerus, and their primary role
is to help stabilize your shoulder during active movements.
muscles must work together, contracting and relaxing in syncronization
in order to produce a stable shoulder.
rotator cuff muscles
include the subscapularis
More information about shoulder anatomy
is a Rotator Cuff Tear?
It is a disruption of the rotator
usually around their attachments on the humerus. The most common cuff
muscle involved is the supraspinatus, followed by the infraspinatus.
Tears can range in size from several millimeters to
They can also be classified as either full thickness or partial
thickness tears. This refers to how deep the tear is, and whether it
goes all the way through your tendon from top to bottom.
What Causes A Rotator Cuff Tear?
The most common cause of rotator cuff tears are repetitive overhead
activities. The repetitive nature of overhead throwing can often cause
problems with the rotator cuff.
Many who suffer a
rotator cuff injury
have had previous shoulder injury, and may have suffered from
shoulder impingement syndrome
symptoms. The repetitive stresses placed on the shoulder cause a
gradual tearing of the rotator cuff, which worsens with activity.
Overuse tears may take several years to cause pain and discomfort.
Traumatic injury can also cause a tear of your rotator cuff. Falling on
outstretched arm can place significant stress on the soft tissue of
shoulder, and may lead to a torn rotator cuff.
also contribute to the prevelance of rotator cuff injury. If you have a
large or hooked acromion, you may be more susceptible to
rotator cuff injury.
of a Rotator Cuff Tear
An atraumatic rotator cuff injury has a gradual onset of pain
and problems in your shoulder. It may begin as an achey feeling after
activities, especially overhead activities. You may feel week, have
a "dead arm", and movement of your arm above your shoulder may
increase your pain. You may also have pain at night, especially when
laying on the sore
A traumatic tear of the rotator cuff is caused by a specific injury,
like falling on your arm, or throwing overhead.
Traumatic tears are associated with immediate
pain, feeling weakness in your shoulder when trying
your arm, and tenderness to the touch around the outside of your
shoulder. Moving your arm above your shoulder will also increase your
Rotator Cuff Tear Treatment
If you have a torn rotator cuff, the first line of treatment
is to rest your arm, and to use ice. Pain, weakness, and loss of
motion all warrant a visit to your family doctor or
physician or athletic trainer will perform an
examination to determine if you have a rotator cuff tear.
Depending on the results of the exam, other tests like an
X-ray and MRI may be used. An MRI can be very helpful in determining
how bad your injury is, and will help determine treatment options.
Your torn rotator cuff may be
treated conservatively through rest and
Stopping the activities that cause
pain, and working on
improving pain free ranges of motion and strengthening of the
shoulder are the primary goals for rehab.
If you are suffering from nagging shoulder
pain, you may be on your way to a rotator cuff tear. I
see patients in my clinic who ignore their pain, or think that it will
just go away, and six months later they are seeing me for rehab after
A simple set
of exercises designed specifically to strengthen
the rotator cuff is all they needed to avoid injury and ultimately
surgery. Had they sought treatment earlier, or been given a little
direction, they could have saved a lot of time, pain, and money.
As a practicing clinician, I believe in providing the highest
quality of care for my patients. I also know that many people do not
want to go to a clinic or their doctor for treatment. Thats why they
wait so long before finally coming in...and then it is too
If you currently
suffer from any of
the following symptoms associated with rotator cuff pain, you may
benefit from a rotator cuff training program...
range of motion
Inability to lay on the affected arm/shoulder
Interrupted sleep or pain at night
Difficulty or pain with getting dressed
Pain with overhead reaching or throwing
Pain with reaching behind your back
Dull ache in the upper arm
While I highly recommend seeing your doctor for any of the
above symptoms, there are other options. "The
Ultimate Rotator Cuff Training Guide" could be the answer you
are looking for.
Preventing Rotator Cuff Tears
Prevention of a torn rotator cuff centers around proper strengthening
and balance of the shoulder musculature. Limiting overhead activities
to those that are pain free, and gradually increasing activities at the
start of the season are also important.
endurance of the shoulder can all help to prevent rotator cuff tears. A
good training program that focuses on these areas could help you avoid
surgery and continued pain.
Rotator cuff tears are not the most common shoulder sports injury,
they can be very limiting. A good shoulder and upper back strengthening
program, along with proper warm up and stretching can help to prevent
rotator cuff injury.
Limiting your overhead
activities to those that
are pain free, and seeking medical attention with any type of shoulder
pain or impingement type symptoms is recommended. Treatment of rotator
cuff tears is often successful with rehabilitation and rest, however, rotator
may be necessary.
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