Rotator Cuff Tears

Apr 12, 2019

Your rotator cuff is a key part of your shoulder, made up of four muscles that help keep your upper arm bone firmly in your shoulder socket. However, the rotator cuff is also prone to tearing that could worsen over time and require orthopaedic treatment.

Causes of a Rotator Cuff Tear

Rotator cuff tears generally fall into two categories: acute and chronic. An acute rotator cuff tear is caused by a quick, jerking motion with explosive force. This is common in contact sports, like football and basketball, as well as other high-intensity activities, such as crossfit and weightlifting.

Chronic rotator cuff tears are much more common and occur when a patient has some degree of impingement syndrome that causes the rotator cuff to weaken over time. This often occurs naturally as part of aging.

Signs of a Rotator Cuff Tear

With an acute rotator cuff tear, the patient will generally hear a tearing or popping sound during an explosive physical movement.

Chronic rotator cuff tears happen gradually over time. The patient may feel weakness when lifting objects over their head or away from their body. Pain in the shoulder may wake them during the night and make a popping sound as they roll over in bed.

Treatment for a Rotator Cuff Tear

We begin our rotator cuff injury treatments are conservatively as possible. Diagnosis of the injury would involve an office visit and a physical evaluation, where we will assess the severity of the injury. An MRI or x-ray may be required to confirm the diagnosis.

If the rotator cuff is sprained, but not torn:

  • Oral or injection anti-inflammatories will be given to reduce pain and swelling
  • A physical therapy regimen will be prescribed to restore shoulder mobility

If the rotator cuff is torn:

  • An arthroscopic repair of the rotator cuff will be necessary
  • This is a minimally invasive procedure where two small incisions are made and the tendon is bonded back to the bone
  • In the meantime, oral or injection anti-inflammatories will be given to reduce pain and swelling
  • During recovery, a physical therapy regimen will be prescribed to restore shoulder mobility

Watch the video below for a detailed look at how Dr. Melander repairs a torn rotator cuff.

Not all rotator cuff tears are created equal. Depending on the location and severity of the tear, recovery times may vary anywhere from three to six months. During that time, the patient will wear a shoulder sling and go through physical therapy.

Rotator Cuff Injury Prevention

Rotator cuff tears are increasingly common as people age, but there are still a number of ways to prevent injury, such as:

  • Stretching your shoulders before and after any intense physical activity
  • Practicing good posture
  • Avoiding sleeping on your shoulder
  • Refraining from smoking

In addition to the actions listed above, there are several exercises you can do at home to reduce shoulder impingement syndrome and alleviate shoulder pain.

Schedule a Consultation

If you believe you’ve suffered a rotator cuff injury, schedule a consultation with Dr. Melander right away. Our sports medicine experts will evaluate the severity of the injury, provide treatment options and get you back to full strength as quickly as possible.