This Is Samia Farooqi, a Registered Pakistani Physiotherapist. I would be sharing some chunks of useful information through my writing.
When we talk about the rotator cuff, it should be kept in mind that this musculotendinous complex plays a crucial role in stabilizing our shoulder joint and preventing it from wear and tear. Then, what are the causative factors which eventually result in tearing of the rotator cuff? Well, generally speaking as one age, the muscles and tendons lose their flexibility and ability to stretch over time. Even daily routine activities which a person performs, like lifting slightly heavier objects could be burdening for the aging rotator cuff. There are several causes of rotator cuff tear; degenerative changes in the rotator cuff and trauma are considered as the main culprit. Traumatic rotator cuff tear can occur caused by any accident or falling on an outstretched arm. A degenerative tear is a gradual event that happens over time when the rotator cuff is stressed, usually with repetitive overhead activities or lifting heavy objects. Older aged individuals are more likely to be suffered from degenerative rotator cuff tears. Tennis and baseball players are also prone to get a torn rotator cuff. Frequent use of anti-inflammatory cortisone injections and smoking weakens the tendon which may also cause a rotator cuff tear.
The rotator cuff is formed by four muscles and their tendons namely supraspinatus, Infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis. It acts as a cushion to the shoulder joint, supporting and stabilizing the shoulder joint during movement.
Rotator cuff tear can be either partial or full-thickness tear involving either one, two, or all of the tendons. In full-thickness tear, the whole tendon is torn and is separated from the bone. The partial-thickness tear usually involves one or two tendons of the rotator cuff. The Supraspinatus tendon is more commonly torn. Older and middle-aged individuals are more prone to get full-thickness rotator cuff tears.
Symptoms of Getting a Rotator Cuff Tear
Rotator cuff tear can cause severe pain in the arm, immediate symptoms depend on the severity of the tear:
- tenderness over the area of the shoulder,
- weakness in the arm, or inability to lift the arm.
- A full-thickness tear can cause intense pain and immobility in the arm.
- A degenerative tear may take symptoms to develop over time.
- Stiffness in the shoulder and inability to sleep on the injured shoulder
- Crackling or popping can also occur on the movement of the arm.
Your physician advises you to get an x-ray or MRI for making a definitive diagnosis of the rotator cuff tear.
Physical Therapy for Rotator Cuff Tears
Physical therapy plays a significant role in the conservative management of rotator cuff tears. Besides taking rest and medications, you can also get your rotator cuff healed with the help of an exercise program, specifically designed to strengthen your rotator cuff muscles and relieve pain. Exercise therapy mainly focuses on restoring flexibility, range of motion and preventing the rotator cuff from further injury. More severe injuries which do not respond well to conservative treatment may require a surgical repair.
Physical therapy helps to recover your shoulder injury and brings back the normal activity level of the shoulder:
- Helps to gain the normal range of motion
- Educates you to attain a better posture to keep you pain-free
- Strengthen your shoulder muscles to regain the activities
- Teach you how to prevent yourself from further injury
- Advises you home exercises to keep your shoulder moving in the pain-free range