Your rotator cuff is a group of four muscles on your shoulder blade with tendons that attach to the “ball” of your humerus (upper arm bone). These muscles and tendons help you to lift and rotate your arms. They also help hold the ball of your humerus firmly in your shoulder socket. The tendons of your rotator cuff can tear. Sometimes, the tendon is only slightly damaged or irritated. Sometimes, the tendon has a complete tear, which means that the tendon has torn away from the bone.
You may feel pain on top of and in front of your injured shoulder. The pain may spread down the outside of your upper arm. The pain usually gets worst at night, especially when lying on the affected side. You may have pain in the shoulder when you lift your arm to the side and often feel weakness of the arm. You may hear clicking, cracking, or popping sounds when you move your shoulder, especially when lifting something heavy.
The tendons of your rotator cuff can tear for a variety of reasons:
- Overuse, especially repetitive overhead activities
- Ageing (degeneration of tissues)
- Trauma (falling or being hit on the shoulder)
- Poor posture
There are several treatment options for a rotator cuff tear. There is no evidence of better results from surgery performed near the time of injury versus later on. For this reason, many doctors first recommend non-surgical treatment.
- Ultrasound and electrical stimulation
- Therapeutic soft tissue techniques
- Specific exercises to restore movement and strengthen muscles
- Assessment of biomechanical abnormalities and correction to reduce stress on rotator cuff