Rotator Cuff Tear

A rotator cuff tear is a common condition that refers to a tear in the group of muscles and tendons in the shoulder joint, which provide stability and allow extensive movement of the shoulder. The severity of this injury can range from a minor strain to a complete tear, affecting daily activities and quality of life.

Symptoms

The symptoms of a rotator cuff tear may vary depending on the severity of the tear, but can include:

  • Severe pain and loss of movement after a significant fall
  • Pain at rest and at night, particularly if lying on the affected shoulder
  • Pain when lifting and lowering your arm or with specific movements
  • Weakness in your arm and shoulder
  • A crackling sensation when moving your shoulder in certain positions

Diagnosis

The diagnosis of a rotator cuff tear involves several steps:

  • Medical History: The healthcare professional will take a detailed history, including the onset, duration, and progression of symptoms.
  • Physical Examination: This may include a series of movements to test shoulder function and assess pain.
  • Imaging Tests: These may include X-rays, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), or an ultrasound to evaluate the physical structure of the shoulder and confirm the diagnosis.

Prevention

Prevention of rotator cuff tears is primarily focused on:

  • Regular exercise: Keeping the shoulder muscles strong can help prevent injury.
  • Limit overhead activities: Overuse from repetitive lifting or overhead activities can lead to tears.
  • Use proper technique when lifting or throwing.

Treatment

There are several treatment options for rotator cuff tears:

  • Physiotherapy/ osteopathy: This includes exercises to restore movement and strengthen your shoulder. It’s often the first step in treatment.
  • Steroid Injection: This can provide temporary relief from pain and inflammation.
  • Surgical treatments: If conservative treatments are ineffective, surgical options include arthroscopic (keyhole) tendon repair, open tendon repair, or tendon graft. The method chosen depends on the size, location, and severity of the tear.
  • Rehabilitation: Following surgery, a comprehensive rehabilitation program is crucial for restoring flexibility, strength, and function to the shoulder. This will be supervised by an experienced physiotherapist or osteopath.

These treatment options aim to reduce pain, improve shoulder function, and enhance overall quality of life. The optimal treatment plan varies depending on individual circumstances, including the severity of the tear, the patient’s age, and their overall health and lifestyle.