Rotator cuff tear is a frequently occurring condition that affects the shoulder joint. It is commonly caused by activities that require excessive strain on the shoulder muscles and ligaments, such as sports-related activities. A rotator cuff tear refers to an injury to the tendons that provide support to the shoulder joint and enable you to lift your arm overhead.
These tendons play a crucial role in stabilizing the shoulder and maintaining its mobility. It is essential to seek timely medical attention if you experience any symptoms of a rotator cuff tear, such as pain, weakness, or limited range of motion in the shoulder.
The rotator cuff is made up of four tendons:
- The Supraspinatus tendon is the largest tendon that helps lift the arm overhead.
- Infraspinatus tendon: This tendon helps to rotate the arm outward.
- Teres minor tendon: This tendon also helps to rotate the arm outward.
- Subscapularis tendon: This tendon helps to rotate the arm inward.
A rotator cuff tear can happen suddenly, such as from a fall or a direct blow to the shoulder, or it can develop gradually over time due to overuse or repetitive motion.
There are several different types of rotator cuff injuries, ranging from mild to severe. If you think you're suffering from rotator cuff injury, here's how to look for symptoms and talk to your doctor about treatment options that work best for you!
What is a Rotator Cuff Tear?
The shoulder is a ball and socket joint that consists of many bones. The collarbone (clavicle), the shoulder blade (scapula), and the upper arm bone (humerus) are all part of this, as well as many other smaller bones. While the shoulder joint capsule and ligaments keep the joint in place, the rotator cuff helps keep your arm in an optimal position.
It provides stability and strength to the shoulder with movements like reaching and lifting. Between the acromion bone, there is a lubricating sac known as a bursa. If there are any strains or tears in your rotator cuff tendons, it may start hurting because there will be an inflamed sac and clusters at these tendon sites.
When the rotator cuff is torn, it can affect one's shoulder stability. A rotator cuff tear results from the fraying of one or more tendons, and in severe cases, those injured are prone to complete tendon detachment. Depending on the severity of the injury, four muscles comprise the rotator cuff - supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis.
The supraspinatus tendon is most affected by an injury as it has the greatest range of motion compared to other parts of the rotator cuff, hence its susceptibility to injury. However, these tendons can be torn if they sustain a large enough strain or impact, such as a fall or accident during exercise.
Types of Rotator Cuff Tears
Rotator cuff tear injuries can occur with a variety of symptoms. Understand injury types to get a proper diagnosis. Rotator cuff tears fall into one of three categories. Learn more about the different types.
Partial Rotator Cuff Tear
In a partial rotator cuff tear, some muscle fibers are damaged without affecting the integrity of the joint. The tendon that overarches your shoulder (the supraspinatus) is often torn or frayed. The rotator cuff is thick, much like any tendon, and this injury usually occurs when less than 50% of the underlying strands are pulled from their connections to the bones in this area.
Full-thickness rotator Cuff Tear
A full-thickness rotator cuff tear is also called a complete tear, although any tear greater than 50% is considered full thickness. This type of injury separates all the fibers of a specific muscle tendon from the bone. This leaves the shoulder vulnerable to instability and significantly weak due to loss of muscle function. Often, this will result in the need for surgery and a sling.
Massive Rotator Cuff Tear
In severe rotator cuff tears, two or more of the four muscles can detach from the bone, leading to serious pain. When this occurs, it is usually a result of a high-impact injury such as those that might happen at work (from lifting items) or while playing sports (which strain your shoulder). Genetic factors may contribute to this condition, such as aging and overall degeneration, which causes muscle retractions and atrophy (shrinkage).
Causes of Rotator Cuff Tear
When the rotator cuff is torn, a variety of serious problems arise. How do you tear your rotator cuff? The two main causes of the tear are:
An acute rotator cuff tear may occur due to an injury or trauma from unstabilized shoulder injuries, such as a partially torn shoulder ligament or a muscular strain in the shoulder region. The risk is also heightened during falls on the outstretched arm or lifting something too heavy. Acute rotator cuff tears are often a part of other serious conditions, like dislocated shoulders and broken collarbones.
A degenerative tear is when the rotator cuff tendons get worn down from normal day-to-day use and activity, compounding over time. Degenerative tears make up nearly 90% of all rotator cuff tears, which can be a problem for people over 40. Since most people are right-handed, having that dominant arm for sports might also affect the other side. If you have one tear, you may also have another one on the opposite side, even if no symptoms are present.
Rotator Cuff Tear Symptoms
If you feel a burning sensation across the back of your shoulder blade, it could mean you suffer from a rotator cuff tear. If this is true, do not delay — see a doctor immediately. Do not let false pride hold you back because waiting to care for this problem will only worsen things in the long run, making your recovery much longer.
- Intense pain when lowering or lifting the arm
- Pain when getting dressed
- I wake up with a dull ache deep in my shoulder
- Discomfort while resting and at night
- Pain that radiates through the affected arm
- A popping or crackling sensation
- Weakness- particularly with lifting the arm overhead or resisting rotation
Treatments for Rotator Cuff Tear
The treatment required for a rotator cuff tear depends on its severity. Mild cases may benefit from RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation), while more severe cases may require alternative treatments which include:
Heat or Cold therapy
Heat and cold therapy are two common treatments for rotator cuff tears. Heat therapy can help to relax muscles and relieve pain, while cold therapy can help to reduce inflammation and pain.
Heat therapy: Heat therapy can be applied to the shoulder using a Sacksythyme Herbal heating pad. Wrapping the heating pad in a towel is important to avoid burning the skin. Heat therapy should be applied for 20 minutes several times a day.
SACKSY THYME Hot Therapy Relief heating Pad for Rotator Cuff Tear:
Cold therapy: Cold therapy can be applied to the shoulder using Sacksythyme cold packs. Wrapping the cold pack in a towel to avoid frostbite is important. Cold therapy should be applied for 20 minutes several times a day.
SACKSY THYME Cold Therapy Pack for Rotator Cuff Tear:
Heat and cold therapy can be used together or separately. It is important to experiment to find what works best for you.
Stretching the shoulder muscles can help reduce pain and improve flexibility.
Strength training exercises can help strengthen the shoulder muscles and prevent future injuries.
Cortisone injections can help to reduce inflammation and pain.
Physical therapy can help to accelerate the healing process and prevent future injuries. A physical therapist can teach you specific exercises to stretch and strengthen the muscles in your shoulder.
Surgery may be necessary for severe rotator cuff tears that do not improve with other treatments.
Rotator Cuff Tear Recovery Time
If your anterior cruciate ligament tear is 50% or greater, surgery may be necessary for proper healing, and you may require more rest. A small rupture will heal itself if given the right care.
In most cases, shoulder rehabilitation requires up to six months of intense therapy. When surgery is necessary, patients must wait four to six months for a full recovery and the ability to use their shoulder without limitations.
Rotator cuff treatment can possess many factors or qualities determining which treatments will be the right choice for healing. Rest and pain management, like cold therapy with a cold therapy pack and heat therapy with a herbal heating pad, are certainties to help accelerate your recovery.
Still, after those necessities have been met, a rehabilitation program must be taken in conjunction with physical therapy.If you are young, willing, and able to go under the knife after a diagnosis, this option will heal your shoulder quicker than any other travel route. These cases typically take six to twelve weeks to recover.