Rotator Cuff Tears: Information & Treatment


One of the most common causes of shoulder pain can be attributed to a rotator cuff injury. Injuries to the rotator cuff can include strains, tendinitis, bursitis, partial tears and full thickness tears. These injuries can occur with anyone but the incidence of rotator cuff tears increase with age. As many as 20-25% of those over 65 have full thickness rotator cuff tears and this increases to about 50% for those in their 80’s. Since rotator cuff tears are common in the aging adult, this type of injury is generally considered a normal, age-related degenerative change. Most times, a rotator cuff injury can be treated with conservative measures including physical therapy.

What is a Rotator Cuff?

The rotator cuff is a series of 4 muscle located in the shoulder. These four muscles are your supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis and teres minor. The 4 muscles attach to the humerus (arm bone) in a semi-circular fashion, pulling the humerus into the socket of your shoulder. The rotator cuff provides stability to the shoulder during reaching, lifting, pushing and pulling activities.

What are common symptoms with a rotator cuff injury?

· Dull ache in shoulder

· Difficulty sleeping

· Difficulty lying on injured side

· Arm weakness

· Difficulty reaching overhead/behind your back

What to do if you have any of these symptoms?

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you can either follow up with your physician or set up a therapy appointment. With direct access for physical therapy, some insurances will cover therapy expenses without a physician prescription.

How can physical therapy help?

A trained Physical Therapist will assess your pain level, function, mobility and strength to determine the best course of action. Most therapy treatments will focus on restoring pain free mobility and improving arm strength. Your therapist may also show you modifications to your daily activities to help cope with your pain and to prevent future injuries.

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