A rotator cuff tear is a tear in any of the muscles or tendons that comprise the rotator cuff. Tears can be partial or complete tears. Partial tears may heal over time with the appropriate intervention while complete tears entirely sever a muscle or tendon and require immediate treatment.
Repetitive overhead activity – like painting or mechanic work – can cause rotator cuff tears. Additionally, repeated, long-term heavy lifting or bone spurs in the bones in your shoulder joint can contribute to rotator cuff tears.
You may be at higher risk of a rotator cuff injury if you:
Rotator cuff tears produce a dull, nagging ache in the affecting shoulder. Many patients describe the pain as dull but distracting and distressing when chronic.
Additionally, rotator cuff tears can make it difficult to sleep, especially on the affected shoulder, and nearly impossible to reach behind your back. You may notice that your arm is weak.
You can choose when to see a doctor, but it’s important to note that injuries are best treated when they’re new.
If your shoulder pain does not resolve within a few days or is preventing you from sleeping or distracting you during the day, it’s time to see a specialist for diagnosis and treatment.
Left untreated, rotator cuff damage can lead to stiffness, weakness, and pain in your shoulder that does not go away over time. These changes can be debilitating and impact your ability to work and play sports.
The single best way to prevent a rotator cuff tear is to strengthen the muscles of your shoulder for stability. Daily shoulder exercises and stretches can help prevent injury and complications.