WHAT IS THE ROTATOR CUFF?
The Rotator Cuff (RTC) is a group of 4 muscles that provide strength and stability to the shoulder. They connect from your scapula (angel wing in the back of your arm) to the head of the humerus (top of your arm), forming a cuff around the shoulder joint. These muscles are responsible for stabilizing the shoulder joint and are essential in almost every type of shoulder because they maintain correct alignment eliminating abnormal stress on the shoulder structures.
WHAT IS A ROTATOR CUFF TEAR?
A rotator cuff tear occurs when one of the four muscle tendons that make up the rotator cuff becomes detached from the bone. A rotator cuff tear can be partial (a portion of the tendon is torn, but the tendon is not torn all the way through) or full (the tendon is torn completely through). As a result, the shoulder may be weak and/or painful. Often the natural aging process also causes tears to the RTC and these slower degenerative changes are not painful and other muscles help to maintain shoulder strength.
CAUSES AND SYMPTOMS OF ROTATOR CUFF TEAR
Injuries to the RTC are common and can occur at any age. In children, they occur secondary to trauma or overuse due to overhead activities. As you get older the incidence of injuries increases, however often rotator cuff pathologies are asymptomatic and part of the natural aging process.
More than half of individuals over the age of 70 will have rotator cuff tear without having any symptoms. They are also common in athletes involved in overhead activities. Degenerative rotator cuff tears develop over time due to an imbalance between daily wear and tear and healing.
Isolated events, such as falling on an outstretched arm, catching a ball, or lifting too much weight overhead.
Certain overhead motions of the shoulder — such as serving a tennis ball, swimming, pitching – when repeated over a long period of time can cause the tendons to slowly wear down, making them susceptible to tearing.
- A dull ache in the affected shoulder.
• Pain that worsens when sleeping on the affected shoulder
• Pain when completing overhead motions, like serving a tennis ball
• Weakness in the arm
• Clicking when elevating the shoulder
• Loss of range of motion
OTHER CAUSES OF WEAK / PAINFUL SHOULDER
Often (up to 60% of the time) pain and weakness in the shoulder are actually the results of a problem in your NECK. Additional symptoms may include slight tightness turning your head, Upper trap or scapular pain/spasms, or no symptoms in your neck at all. BUT your clinician MUST ALWAYS clear your spine. This is easily done and takes less than five minutes. If your spine is NOT cleared, there is a 50% chance that the root cause of your pain is incorrectly blamed on your shoulder. Many believe that only an MRI can correctly diagnose…an MRI is just a picture. It does show a very detailed image but does not show pain. As we age, changes happen to all of our joints naturally (like grey hair and wrinkles) and also because of poor posture, poor mechanics, and overuse. When these changes happen slowly, they are asymptomatic/painless. You may have a RTC tear that has slowly happened over the years, but the sudden pain in your shoulder is actually referred from your neck or elsewhere. It is VITAL that your clinician perform a mechanical assessment to uncover the true root cause of your symptoms instead of relying on a picture or where your symptoms are located.
VIRTUAL MECHANICAL ASSESSMENT
All of our clinicians are specialty trained to perform a mechanical assessment to uncover the true cause of your symptoms. This is done by first ruling out the spine and then moving the joint to uncover the specific problem rather than giving you an umbrella diagnosis of “Impingement, Arthritis, RTC Tendonitis/Tear”.
Make an appointment now with one of our specialists!