Rotator Cuff Tear

What is it?

First thing you need to know about this injury is the name. This is commonly incorrectly referred to as the rotator cup. The four muscles and tendons that are responsible for keeping the shoulder stable are collectively referred to as the rotator cuff.

Rotator Cuff injuries occur most commonly in people who tend to perform repetitive overhead motions such as athletes and laborers (painters, carpenters, etc) and are much more common with age.

There are two kinds of rotator cuff tears; full-thickness tears and partial-thickness tears. Full-thickness tears extend the entire length of the muscle/tendon while partial-thickness tears only affect a portion of the muscle.

Tears can also be described as either acute or chronic. Acute tears are tears that just happened due to a fall or other traumatic event. Chronic tears happen over an extended period of time due to repetitive overuse.

How does it feel?

The arm often feels heavy, painful, and fairly weak. Untreated rotator cuff tears can lead to loss of shoulder motion, shoulder weakness, and pain that radiates over the top of the shoulder or down the outside of the arm

How is this condition treated?

In most cases, a torn rotator cuff requires surgical repair followed by physical therapy. In some cases though, surgery can be avoided and just physical therapy is enough to promote healing and decrease pain. No matter the severity of the tear, seeking treatment sooner rather than later is always going help speed the healing process and prevent permanent damage and conditions such as frozen shoulder.

Pain in your shoulder? Call us today to set up a FREE pain consultation. Let a physical therapist examine your shoulder and give you a recommended treatment plan. 414-858-1361

*Information in this article provided by the arthritis foundation,, and The Mayo Clinic*

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