Rotator Cuff Tears: What You Need to Know about Rotator Cuff Tear

A third of people with musculoskeletal injuries visiting their GP will report shoulder pain, and of this group, 65-70% of cases will be related to the rotator cuff. Rotator cuff tears are one of the common injuries related to the rotator cuff.

They can occur as a result of trauma or ‘wear and tear’ on the tendon, and are more often found in adults over 60. Some rotator cuff tears are asymptomatic and are only found when the shoulder is taken for imaging. However, symptomatic tears can be very problematic as they cause a great deal of pain and limitations in function during everyday activities.

What is the Rotator Cuff exactly?

The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that surround your shoulder. They include supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor and subscapularis. These muscles play an important role in stabilising your shoulder and also assist in shoulder movement.

When these muscles are injured or torn, it can lead to significant pain and dysfunction at the shoulder.

What are the most common symptoms?

Rotator cuff tears can be partial (only part of the tendon has been torn) or full-thickness (the tendon has been completely torn). However, the degree of the tear doesn’t necessarily determine the level of function at the shoulder.

The most common symptoms from a rotator cuff tear include:

  • Shoulder pain and/or weakness, particularly when lifting the arm above shoulder height.
  • Difficulty performing daily activities such as dressing, brushing hair, reaching for items in top shelves.
  • Pain when changing positions or sleeping on the affected shoulder at night.
  • Potential soreness/fatigue of the opposite arm if compensating heavily for the injured shoulder.

How can physiotherapy and exercise physiology help with the recovery?

Rotator cuff tears can be managed surgically or conservatively – this is typically a decision you will make with your doctor after careful consideration of your goals, the severity of the tear, your current function and the risks and benefits with surgery. However, regardless of whether you undergo surgery or not, physiotherapy and exercise physiology will be a great help in your recovery.

When you come to UniquePhysio, our physiotherapist and/or exercise physiologist will assess your current condition, your level of function, and help develop a treatment plan with you to achieve your goals. They may perform manual therapy (hands-on treatment) to relieve pain, and provide you with strategies to manage your pain and your activities at home whilst you’re recovering.

Additionally, and most importantly, they will guide you through a structured exercise program suited to your needs that will help improve the movement, strength and stability of your shoulder, which will allow you to get back to the activities you want to do. Exercise-based rehabilitation has been shown to be very effective, with 80% of rotator-cuff related cases making a large or full recovery.

Do you have a rotator cuff tear or think you might have a rotator-cuff related injury? Book with us now and we can commence your recovery journey!

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