Did you know that 4.5 million doctor visits occur in Americans each year because of rotator cuff tears?
They are one of the most common tendon injuries among adults, and can do quite a bit of damage if they go untreated.
If you suspect you have a tear, seek a doctor for diagnosis and follow up with treatment like sports injury therapy to help your healing process.
So, how do you know if you have such an ailment?
What is the rotator cuff?
To start, you should know what this injury affects. The rotator cuff is a group of four tendons and muscles that stabilize the shoulder joint and allow for mobility like lifting and rotating the arm.
These are also referred to as the SITS muscles, which stands for supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis groups.
What constitutes a tear?
You can tear your rotator cuff in two ways. A partial tear is when one of the aforementioned muscle groups is frayed or damaged, while a full tear means the muscle is torn completely and even may be a tendon that’s pulled off the bone.
How is it torn?
Rotator cuff injuries are often seen in athletes, particularly those who participate in tennis or baseball. They are also prevalent in people with jobs that require a lot of upper body rotating movements, such as construction.
It can be the result of moving the arm in the same motion repetitively. The tear can happen gradually over time, or all at once if the movement causing it is a sudden one.
How do you know if your rotator cuff is torn?
There are many common symptoms to look for in order to diagnose this on your own prior to seeking professional help.
You may feel a pain in your arm when you lay down or move a certain way. You might have trouble raising your arm above your head, or be unable to lift objects as you normally would.
You may notice a general weakness in your shoulder, or hear popping or clicking noises when you move your arm in any direction.
How does a professional test for this?
There are many tests doctors or physiotherapists can do to diagnose a rotator cuff injury.
Some can also be done at home, such as the Apley scratch test. This requires the patient to reach one hand behind their back while placing the other over their shoulder. This tests for limited range of motion.
The doctor may also ask the patient to raise their arm to the side with the elbow bent at an angle, then attempt to externally rotate the arm while the doctor applies resistance. This can diagnose a tear to the teres minor muscle.
After checking motion range and muscle strengths, a doctor’s test may go further to include an MRI, x-ray, or ultrasound.
An MRI provides detailed pictures of the shoulder, while an x-ray examines the arm bone’s possible infringement on the rotator cuff’s space. An ultrasound will give the doctor a clearer picture of the shoulder’s soft tissue and any problems that are occurring there.