Accessibility Tools

What is a rotator cuff tear?

Your rotator cuff is the group of muscles that come together and form tendons in the shoulder joint to provide support and allow for a wider range of motion. The rotator cuff gets its name because it stabilizes the ball of the shoulder within the joint, enabling your arm to lift and rotate.

Major injury to these tendons may cause a tear in them, resulting in the condition known as a rotator cuff tear. It is one of the most common causes of shoulder pain in middle-aged adults and older individuals.

In younger active individuals, particularly athletes, acute injury, such as a fall, is the most common cause of a rotator cuff tear. Age-related wear and tear can also lead to weakening of the tendon and ultimately a rotator cuff tear.

How do I know if I have a rotator cuff tear?

Typically, if you have a rotator cuff tear, you will feel pain in the front part of your shoulder that extends down your arm. Overhead actions such as lifting, reaching, or throwing can make the pain worse.

You may also feel pain while sleeping on the affected shoulder. Feeling arm and shoulder weakness when you reach behind your back or perform routine tasks is also a common symptom. If an acute injury causes your rotator cuff to tear, you may feel an immediate snapping sensation followed by weakness of your arm and shoulder.

When should I seek medical attention for a rotator cuff tear?

If you have injured your shoulder or suffer from chronic shoulder and arm pain, visit Dr. Gombera. A rotator cuff tear can get larger and worsen over time, particularly with repetitive use. Worsening pain and decreasing strength may mean a potential rotator cuff tear is getting larger.

Re-injury or the extension of an existing tear is common if you don’t allow an orthopedic surgeon or shoulder specialist to intervene. Early diagnosis and treatment of a rotator cuff tear helps prevent loss of strength and limited range of motion from occurring.

How do you diagnose a rotator cuff tear?

Dr. Gombera first discusses your symptoms and reviews your medical history. During a physical examination, he will check for tenderness in your shoulder joint and examine your arm strength and range of motion with a series of tests. Ultimately, he diagnoses rotator cuff tears based on a combination of X-rays and imaging studies, such as MRI scans.

After diagnosing a rotator cuff tear, Dr. Gombera generally recommends conservative treatment options to improve arm and shoulder strength, as well as range of motion, such as:

  • Rest
  • Icing
  • Wearing a shoulder sling
  • Pain medication
  • Arm and shoulder exercises

However, repairing a rotator cuff tear fully typically requires minimally invasive surgery or open surgery.

If you have sustained a rotator cuff tear, Dr. Gombera can answer all of your questions about diagnosis and treatment regarding this injury during an in-office consultation. Call or schedule an appointment online today.

  • American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
  • American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
  • Arthroscopy Association of North America
  • American Shoulder And Elbow Surgeons