Understanding the Rotator Cuff:
A rotator cuff tear is a common yet debilitating injury, often manifesting as a dull ache deep in the shoulder. It can arise from acute injury or progressive degeneration (sorry to break it to you, we're all getting older). Symptoms range from pain and weakness to a decrease in the range of motion, making early detection and management crucial. But not all rotator cuff tears are created equal, some actually exist without pain. My goal is to provide you the tools you need to not only assess the issue, but to also take preventative action before it gets worse, so let's dive in.
The rotator cuff is a quartet of muscles and tendons that stabilize the shoulder joint and facilitate arm movement. This ensemble includes the supraspinatus, which holds your humerus in place and keeps your upper arm stable; the infraspinatus and teres minor, which aid in rotation and extension; and the subscapularis, which works to rotate the arm inward. The subscapularis is the muscle that is the culprit for more than 90% of tears and shoulder impingements. Tears can occur from acute injuries like falls or chronic wear and tear, especially in repetitive overhead motions. These tears can range from partial to full thickness, with symptoms that may escalate from mild discomfort to severe pain and functional impairment.
Signs You Might Have a Rotator Cuff Injury:
- Pain while resting, especially when lying on the affected shoulder
- Pain when lifting or lowering your arm in specific movements
- Weakness when lifting or rotating your arm
- Crepitus or crackling sensation when moving your shoulder in certain positions