Skip to main content

Helpful Rehab Hints

Rotator Cuff Tears

Nobody wants a torn anything, let alone a torn shoulder cuff. It is pretty common to hear “I tore my rotator cuff” in a passing conversation about aches and pains with your friends or co-worker. The cuff is a group of muscles and their tendons that work to stabilize the shoulder joint. They originate on the shoulder blade and insert (end) on the top of the shoulder joint.

The most common injury that occurs to the rotator cuff is a tear. Tears are more common in people over 40, however, the younger population can be at risk from sports related activity (esp baseball and tennis), trauma, or even repetitive overhead motions. A tear may also go hand in hand with a dislocation or fracture.

The onset of symptoms tend to be more gradual but can occur as acute pain after an injury. The gradual onset may be caused with repetitive overhead movements or by the wearing down of the tendon. Pain tends to be in the front of your shoulder and radiates down the arm. At first you only notice it with overhead movements but as the injury progresses you may feel it at rest or with no activity at all. Simply combing your hair or tucking in a shirt becomes troublesome.

Depending on the extent of your injury, it can be solved with physical therapy, injections, rest or sometimes surgery. Physical therapy is usually the first option taken. We first calm the swelling and symptoms with modalities, then try to restore the range of motion, followed by a re-strengthening program. If surgery is required, Physical Therapy will help to restore movement and strength postoperatively, and prevent future injuries.

Laura LeFevre PTA