Rotator Cuff Tear of the Shoulder
A rotator cuff tear refers to a specific tear of one or more tendons and muscles of the shoulder. The shoulder stabilizing muscles, called the rotator cuff, allows you to lift and rotate the arm. Tendons attach arm muscles to the bones of the shoulder and upper arm. A tear may be partial or complete, and it may occur gradually or quickly. If a shoulder has been sore and you continue to use it, a tendon may tear. It may result from a fall, lifting, pulling, pushing, or throwing.
Symptoms may include:
- Arm or shoulder soreness
- Trouble lifting the arm over the head
- Shoulder tenderness and swelling
- Pain that radiates to the neck and forearm
What your doctor can do:
- Diagnose the injury by taking your medical history and doing a physical exam
- Treatment depends on severity of the injury:
- Minor tears may heal on their own with rest and specific exercises.
- Shoulder immobilization may be recommended for a short period of time.
- Serious tears may need surgery.
What you can do:
- Physical or occupational therapy can improve strength and flexibility.
What you can expect:
- Complete healing may take several months.
Contact your doctor if you or a family member (1) have symptoms of a rotator cuff tear; (2) there is no improvement or symptoms worsen, despite treatment; and (3) especially if pain prevents restful sleep.