What You Should Do If You Suspect That You've Torn Your Rotator Cuff

Your rotator cuff surrounds and protects your shoulder joint as a group of muscles and tough tendons. This group of tissue keeps the head of your upper arm bone (humerus) secured where it belongs in your shoulder socket.

An injury to your rotator cuff usually causes pain, weakness, stiffness, loss of flexibility or range of motion, and loss of function in severe cases.

If you feel any sort of pain or find it difficult to complete everyday tasks, you should seek medical care right away.

Don’t jump to conclusions about a tear too soon, though — there are many ways you can injure your rotator cuff without actually tearing it. At Urgently Ortho, Dr. Leah Brown can rule out or confirm other types of injuries.

Types of rotator cuff injuries

Other than a tear (or strain), your rotator cuffs are subject to these muscle and tendon injuries:

All rotator cuff injuries, including tears, are classified as acute (injuries that occur from one event, such as a sports injury) or chronic (long-lasting injuries that develop over time).

What causes rotator cuff injuries?

Often, age-related wear-and-tear is the main cause of rotator cuff injuries. The tendons in your rotator cuff erode as you get older, and they break down with repetitive activities or motions.

Sports that require repetitive movements — such as throwing a ball, swinging a club, or lifting things overhead — are risk factors for rotator cuff injuries. Sudden jerking motions, such as those from a sports injury or an accident while moving heavy objects, can also injure your rotator cuff.

What to do if you think you’ve torn your rotator cuff

Regardless of what type of rotator cuff injury you may have, you shouldn’t neglect treatment if you suspect you’re injured. Without treatment, things only get worse — the pain doesn’t just go away on its own, especially if it’s a tear.

Start with conservative treatments such as resting, ice, and compression as soon as you feel pain. Then seek medical attention from a specialist in rotator cuff injuries, like Dr. Brown.

After a physical exam and consult to discuss your symptoms, Dr. Brown may order X-rays or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to get a better look at your shoulder. These imaging tests can help rule out any other rotator cuff injuries, like the ones described above.

Depending on the severity of your rotator cuff tear, Dr. Brown may recommend a range of treatment options. Be prepared to describe your symptoms to Dr. Brown and go over any events or medical history that may have caused your injury.

Your treatment options come down to two categories: surgical and nonsurgical. You may need surgery if your rotator cuff tear is severe and you experience loss of function in your shoulder.

In many cases, nonsurgical treatment suffices. Rest, ice, compression, steroid injections, physical therapy, pain medications, PRP therapy, or stem cell therapy all help to treat rotator cuff tears that don’t require surgery.

If you suspect you’ve torn your rotator cuff, call Urgently Ortho right away or request an appointment online to set up an evaluation.

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