Dr. Eric P. Rightmire: Oftentimes, I have patients come to my office with a shoulder pain, wondering if they have a rotator cuff tear. Rotator cuff is actually made up of four muscles and tendons that are attached to different parts of the shoulder joints that stabilize the ball in the socket as the rest of the muscles move your shoulder around. Typical symptoms associated with a rotator cuff tear are pain with movement, particularly when you bring your hand to eye level or both or weakness in the shoulder, particularly when you’re lifting something away from your body.
The typical scenario that leads to rotator cuff tear is a fall or lifting something heavy, typically with your arm outstretched and you feel a pop in the shoulder that leads to these symptoms. Quite often though, there can be no history of injury and these symptoms develop overtime as the tendon slowly degrades and can tear. Partial tears can often be treated conservatively with physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medications and gradual resumption of normal exercises. Unfortunately, the complete tears don’t heal because of the mechanism of which they pull away from the bone and can’t get back down to the spot where they’re attached without surgery.
If you suspect you have a rotator cuff tear, it’s best to find out early whether it’s a partial or a complete tear, which we can determine usually through physical exam or with imaging. If you have any of these symptoms, the best thing to do would be to make an appointment to see one of our consultants.