Rotator Cuff Tear – What is it?

A rotator cuff tear is a common injury, especially in sports like baseball or tennis, or in jobs like painting or cleaning windows. It usually happens over time from normal wear and tear, or if you repeat the same arm motion over and over. But it also can happen suddenly if you fall on your arm or lift something heavy.

Acute Rotator Cuff Tear

An acute rotator cuff tear occurs when there is excessive force exerted on the rotator cuff tendon. The amount of force needed to tear a rotator cuff tendon varies from person to person and the condition of their rotator cuff tendon prior to trauma. In a person with a healthy tendon, it could require the stress of a fall, landing on an outstretched arm to tear the tendon. But if the tendon has pre-existing degeneration, the force require for it to tear may be modest, such as lifting a moderately heavy object.

Chronic Tear

Chronic rotator cuff tears are commonly seen in people whose occupations or sports require them to reach their arms overhead frequently, such as in baseball pitchers, tennis players, or even painters. Use of the arm in such a position causes repetitive trauma to the rotator cuff muscles and tendons.


As we age, the blood supply to the tendons is reduced which can lead to longer healing times after injury. In addition, muscles degenerate. All this can lead to tendinitis (tendon inflammation), which can make a person more prone to a rotator cuff tear.

Symptoms include:

  • Have trouble raising your arm
  • Feel pain when you move your arm in certain ways or lie on it
  • Have weakness in your shoulder
  • Be unable to lift things like you normally do
  • Hear clicking or popping when you move your arm

Treatment of rotator cuff tear is usually a combination of physical therapy and medication. Physical therapy makes the shoulder muscle stronger, medication reduce inflammation and relieve the pain. Surgery is applied in some cases.


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