What is the rotator cuff and how do you tear it?
The rotator cuff is a tendon in the shoulder that helps with movement like lifting and rotating the arm. It is made of four muscles which form a cuff over the head of the humerus. The rotator cuff can be torn through wear and tear from degeneration, like from shoulder impingement syndrome. It can also tear due to an injury, like a fall. The tear can be partial, where the tendon is only partly torn, or full-thickness, where the tear is complete.
Who needs nonsurgical rotator cuff injury treatment?
It's important to treat a torn rotator cuff to maintain stability and range of motion in the shoulder. Symptoms of a torn rotator cuff can include crepitus, or a crackling feeling when moving the shoulder, weakness, and pain with movement and at rest. Diagnosis of a rotator cuff tear is usually made after observation of these symptoms during a physical exam, followed by an imaging test to confirm.
What are the treatment options?
Treatment of a torn rotator cuff should begin as soon as possible to avoid further damage. Several nonsurgical treatment options are available. The first options would be rest and activity modification. Because rotator cuff tears can grow larger with overuse, it's best to give the body some time to heal. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication may be of benefit as well as physical therapy and strengthening exercises. Adherence to these exercises can help the patient recover faster and better. Steroid injections may also be prescribed. Depending on the severity of the rotator cuff tear, surgery may be necessary.