Tuesday, September 27, 2016

3 Common Signs of a Rotator Cuff Tear

The rotator cuff is a series of four tendons that function together to lift and rotate the arm.  The rotator cuff tendons become weaker as we age, especially as we get to our 40’s and 50’s.  The rotator cuff tendons can tear, either as the result of the process of aging, or a sports, work or accidental injury.

The usual way a tear occurs in the rotator cuff is a forceful movement of the arm, such as in a fall or when reaching above the head.  Tears can occur with heavy lifting, or by pushing forcefully with the arm above the head.  Rotator cuff tears can also occur as the tendon  ”wears out” over time, and a specific injury is not always identified.  Rotator cuff tears occur most commonly in the dominant arm in patients in their 40’s, 50’s, or 60’s.

Lots of problems can cause shoulder pain.  Here are the top signs of a tear in the rotator cuff:

1. Nighttime Pain: Pain at night is a very common sign of a problem with the rotator cuff.   

2. Pain radiating down the outside of the arm:  Pain that radiates from the outside of the shoulder, down the outside of the arm, toward the elbow is very common in patients with a torn rotator cuff.

3. Difficulty reaching behind the back or overhead:  Since the rotator cuff’s primary function is to move the shoulder overhead or to rotate the arm, patients with rotator cuff tears often find it difficult to raise the arm overhead or behind the back.  Even if they can perform these tasks, it is painful to do so.

What Should You Do If You Think You Have a Tear?
First, see an orthopedic shoulder specialist.  If your doctor thinks you might have a rotator cuff tear, he will recommend an MRI.  An MRI test will show the tendons of the rotator cuff, and will show a tear.


If you have a rotator cuff tear, sometimes the tear will respond to treatment like physical therapy.  In more significant tears, surgery may be necessary to repair the torn tendon.  Your orthopedic surgeon will help you decide what the best course of treatment is for you.

At Advanced Bone & Joint, our team specializes in muscle, bone and joint injuries - including Rotator Cuff Tears.   Contact us today to schedule a consult with one of our Orthopedic Specialists! We have offices in St. Peters and O'Fallon, MO.

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