A rotator cuff tear is an injury to one or more of the tendons that make up the rotator cuff in the shoulder. The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles and their tendons that surround the shoulder joint and help stabilise and move the shoulder.
Rotator cuff tears can occur as a result of acute trauma, such as a fall or a direct blow to the shoulder, or they can develop gradually over time due to repetitive motions or degeneration of the tendon. People who engage in activities that involve repetitive overhead motions, such as athletes (particularly baseball pitchers), painters, and construction workers, are more prone to developing rotator cuff tears. The symptoms of a rotator cuff tear can vary depending on the severity of the tear, but common signs and symptoms include:
- Shoulder pain - Often located at the front or side of the shoulder, which may worsen with certain movements or activities.
- Weakness - Difficulty in lifting or moving the arm, especially when performing tasks that require reaching overhead or behind the back.
- Limited range of motion - Decreased ability to move the shoulder through its full range of motion.
- Cracking or popping sounds - Some individuals may experience cracking or popping sensations in the shoulder joint.
If you suspect a rotator cuff tear, it is important for you to see an orthopaedic surgeon or a sports medicine specialist. Dr. Rajesh Malhotra will perform a physical examination and may order imaging tests, such as an MRI or ultrasound, to confirm the diagnosis and assess the severity of the tear.
Treatment options for a rotator cuff tear depend on several factors, including the size and location of the tear, as well as the individual's age, overall health, and activity level. Non-surgical treatments may include rest, activity modification, physical therapy to strengthen the shoulder muscles, and pain management with medications or injections. In some cases, particularly for larger or more severe tears, surgical repair may be recommended.
Surgery for a rotator cuff tear can involve either an open repair or an arthroscopic procedure, depending on the specific circumstances. The goal of surgery is to reattach the torn tendon to the bone and restore stability and function to the shoulder. Following surgery, a period of rehabilitation and physical therapy is essential to regain strength and range of motion in the shoulder.