Your GP says you have “torn your rotator cuff”: now what?
If your GP has told you that you have a rotator cuff tear, you may be feeling a little lost. What does this mean? What are the implications? How will I recover? In this blog post, we will answer all of these questions and more. We will discuss what rotator cuff tendinopathies and tears are, why they occur, and what the best treatment options are. We hope that this information will help to ease your mind and give you a better understanding of your condition.
What is the rotator cuff and how does it tear?
The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles and tendons that attach the shoulder blade to the upper arm bone. These muscles and tendons work to stabilise the ball of the shoulder into the socket. A tear in the rotator cuff occurs when one or more of these tendons becomes damaged. This damage can be caused by overuse, injury, or degeneration due to age and cause shoulder pain.
What are the symptoms of a rotator cuff tear?
The most common symptom of a rotator cuff tear is shoulder pain. This pain may be worse at night or when you attempt to move your arm in certain ways. You will also feel weakness in your shoulder and arm. If there is no weakness, this is great news and you should see a physio to prevent your pain from progressing to a tear!
What’s the difference between a rotator cuff tear and rotator cuff tendinopathy?
A rotator cuff tear is a specific type of shoulder injury that results in the tearing of one or more shoulder tendons. Rotator cuff tendinopathy is a general term used to describe shoulder pain that is caused by the inflammation of the shoulder tendons. This inflammation can be due to overuse, injury, or degeneration. The long answer short is; a tendinopathy can exist without a tear… a tear has probably been preceded by a tendinopathy. The main thing as a patient that you will notice is a significant loss of strength in your shoulder if there is a tear, while both may give shoulder pain.
What does bad treatment look like?
It would be understandable if you weren’t improving after any of the following treatments:
- complete rest
- taking painkillers
- wearing a sling
What is the best treatment for rotator cuff tears?
Firstly, you need to determine whether the pain you are feeling is actually a tear, or just simply a very sore, grumpy and inflamed tendon. They are so commonly misdiagnosed via ultrasound that this form of imaging is now considered to be unreliable. More reliable are either:
1) Clinical testing performed by a musculoskeletal or sports physiotherapist
2) An MRI scan of the shoulder
The initial phases of treatment for rotator cuff tears involves a combination of ice, rest from painful activities and specific strength exercises. Building up specific strength in and around the shoulder is the most important part of rehabilitation. Surgery is only recommended in cases where the tear is large and normal physiotherapy management has failed.
Physiotherapy is a the most cost effective treatment for rotator cuff tendinopathies and tears. Our team at Fixio Physio Dee Why will work with you to create a customised rehabilitation programme that will help to speed up your recovery. Book an appointment now.