Rotator Cuff Tear Overview

Rotator Cuff Tear Overview

Rotator cuff tear is a very common issue with the shoulder. Most rotator cuff tears are caused by sports-related activities that put stress on the muscles and ligaments of the shoulder joint. There are several different types of rotator cuff injuries, ranging from mild to severe. If you think you're suffering from any kind of 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 acromion bone there is a lubricating sac known as bursa if there are any strains or tears in your rotator cuff tendons, then it may start hurting because there will be an inflamed sac along with clusters at these tendon sites.

When the rotator cuff is torn, it can have lasting effects on 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 by far has the greatest range of motion compared to other parts of the rotator cuff; hence its susceptibility to injury. However, any of 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. Most often, the tendon that overarches your shoulder (the supraspinatus) is 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 cases of a rotator cuff tear, two or more of the four muscles can become detached from the bone and lead to serious pain issues. 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 put a strain on your shoulder). There are also genetic factors that 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:

Acute Tear

An acute rotator cuff tear may occur as a result of 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 and during lifting something too heavy. Acute rotator cuff tears are often a part of other serious conditions, like dislocated shoulders and broken collarbones.

Degenerative Tear

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 close to 90% of all rotator cuff tears, which can be a problem for people who are past the age of 40. Since most people are right-handed and using that dominant arm for sports might affect the other side as well. If you have one tear then you may also have another one on the opposite side even if there aren't any symptoms present.

Rotator Cuff Tear Symptoms

If you feel a burning sensation across the back of your shoulder blade, it could mean that you are suffering from a rotator cuff tear. If this is true, do not delay — see a doctor immediately. Do not let any false pride hold you back because waiting to take care of this problem will only make things worse, in the long run, making your recovery time much longer.

  • Intense pain when lowering or lifting the arm
  • Pain when getting dressed
  • Waking up with a dull ache deep in the 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 resisted rotation

Rotator Cuff Tear Recovery Time

If a tear of your anterior cruciate ligament is 50% or greater, surgery may be necessary for proper healing and you may require more rest. A small rupture will probably 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 have to wait four to six months for a full recovery and the ability to use their shoulder without limitations.

Rotator cuff treatment can possess many different factors or qualities that determine 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, but 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 has been made, this option will heal your shoulder quicker than any other route of travel. These cases typically take six to twelve weeks to recover.

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