Understanding Rotator Cuff Tears

Understanding Rotator Cuff Tears

Rotator cuff tears are an extremely painful type of injury. They are extremely common and they cause debilitating pain and restrict range the range of motion in the shoulder. Not only does a torn rotator cuff cause pain, but it also reduces the amount of strength in the shoulder, which makes simple activities painful and difficult to manage.

The shoulder is made of three separate bones. The upper arm bone, the collarbone, and the shoulder blade. The shoulder itself is a ball-and-socket joint, which is very susceptible to injury, especially if you live an active lifestyle.

The tendons of the rotator cuff cover the head of the upper arm bone and are used to help raise and pivot your arm. Located between the shoulder bone and the rotator cuff is a fluid-filled sack called a bursa to keep the joint lubricated. This is why any rotator cuff injury should be treated by a ShoulderMD.

Description of a Rotator Cuff Tear

A rotator cuff tear involves a tear in one or more of the rotator cuff tendons. In severe cases, the rotator cuff tendon is pulled completely away from the bone attachment. In some cases, the patient’s pain begins as a minor problem, with the rotator cuff fraying slowly over time.

There are different types of rotator cuff tears, including:

  • Partial Tear

    This is typically referred to as a partial tear. The tendon is damaged but is not completely severed.

  • Full-Thickness tear

    Also known as a complete tear, the tendon is completely separated from the bone. Essentially, there is a hole in the tendon

Causes of Rotator Cuff Tears

There are two primary causes of rotator cuff tears, including injury and degeneration. The most common forms of injury are acute tear and degenerative tear. An acute tear is caused by an injury, usually falling down or lifting something too heavy. Sometimes it is caused by lifting something with a jerking motion. This type of tear is typically caused by another injury, like a dislocated collarbone or shoulder. Degenerative tears wear down the tendon slowly. This can happen normally as we get older, or it can happen as a result of a primary illness. Usually, this type of injury happens in the dominant arm, but it is possible for the same type of injury to developing in the other arm as well. There are some factors that make you more likely to develop a degenerative rotator cuff tear.

Knowing what puts you at a greater risk of developing a rotator cuff tear can help you reduce the likelihood of you developing one. Being over the age of 40, lifting heavy items over the head, and being an athlete place you at greater risk. Also, there are some career trades that are at greater risk, including painters, carpenters, and anyone who works with their hands above their heads frequently.