Rotator Cuff Tear
WHAT CAUSES A ROTATOR CUFF TEAR?
Rotator Cuff tears can happen in a couple of different ways. There are traumatic tears (accident or a fall) and degenerative tears (shoulder impingement). Someone who slips and falls or is trying to lift something too heavy or suffers an injury such as a broken collar bone can suffer an acute tear.
Degenerative tears are caused by prolonged damage to the rotator cuff. One of the ways that this can happen is if someone has shoulder impingement that goes untreated. The Rotator Cuff tendon is one of the structures located in the space between the humeral head and the acromian process, known as the subacromial space. When this space is compressed or “impinged” it causes damage to the tissue within it.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I TEAR MY ROTATOR CUFF?
Rotator Cuff tears generally occur in the tendon that attaches the rotator cuff muscles to the humeral head. There are two layers to this tendon a superficial layer and a deep layer. Tears that occur in the superficial layer are called partial thickness tears. When the tear occurs in the deep layer it is a full thickness tear.
Partial thickness tears are painful but the shoulder will remain functional. This means that despite the pain you will be able to still move your arm through its normal range of motion and maintain strength in the shoulder. The risk with untreated partial thickness tears is that they lead to a full thickness tear.
A full thickness tear occurs when the tendon has been torn down to the bone. This results in a loss of function, but it is painless. A full thickness tear makes it difficult to do simple tasks such as lift a jug of milk out of the fridge. A person with a full thickness tear may complain of weakness in the affected arm and have to support the arm when lifting objects.
HOW DO I MANAGE A ROTATOR CUFF TEAR?
If you suspect you may have a rotator cuff tear it is best to consult your Doctor, Chiropractor, Physiotherapist or Massage Therapist. Early treatment can prevent symptoms from becoming worse and your recovery will be that much quicker. Pure Body Balance has several practitioners who specialize in the treatment of shoulder injuries and can ensure that you receive the best care available.
The main concern is that you want to limit further damage. Some general guidelines are to avoid overhead activities, manage the pain/inflammation and get your shoulder examined. Non-surgical treatments may include:
- Activity modification
- Strengthening exercises and physical therapy
Some signs that your shoulder may require surgical treatment are:
- Your symptoms have lasted 6 to 12 months
- You have a large tear (3cm+)
- You have significant weakness and loss of function in your shoulder
- The tear was a result of an acute injury
Following treatment for the tear in the rotator cuff a post rehabilitation program can help patients restore strength and endurance to the muscles of the shoulder. This lessens the risk of future injury and ensures healthy shoulder function. If you have any questions or would like to speak with a practitioner contact us and we would be happy to help you.
This guide is meant as an educational reference. If you have a shoulder injury consult your Doctor or qualified healthcare practitioner for more information.