Rotator Cuff Injury Overview
Rotator cuff injuries are quite common in adults and lead to shoulder pain and weakness. A group of muscles and tendons, known as the rotator cuff, surround the shoulder joint like a cuff on a shirt sleeve and allow the shoulder to rotate upward, outward and inward. A rotator cuff tear is typically caused by a fall, sports injury or degeneration. Dr. Mark Getelman, orthopedic shoulder specialist located in the Van Nuys, Thousand Oaks and Los Angeles, California area, is well trained in treating a rotator cuff tear by non-surgical and surgical measures, such as an ultrasound guided injection and arthroscopic, minimally invasive surgery.
When one or more tendons of the rotator cuff become torn, a patient experiences shoulder pain and weakness from the separation or “tearing” of the tendon from the head of the humerus. Rotator cuff tears are classified as either partial or full-thickness tears. A partial tear occurs when the soft tissue becomes damaged but is not completely severed. A full-thickness tear, or complete tear, occurs when the soft tissue is torn off the bone completely. The majority of rotator cuff injuries involve the supraspinatus muscle and tendon, but the other rotator cuff tendons and muscles have the ability to sustain an injury.
Rotator cuff injuries are caused by injury and degeneration in many cases. An acute tear is typically caused by a fall or lifting an object too heavy. Degeneration often plays a role in the process and is often the result of chronic use of the shoulder, bone spurs on the underside of the acromion and lack of blood supply to the tendons. A degenerative tear can then occur over time.
Rotator Cuff Tear Symptoms
The most common rotator cuff tear symptoms include pain and weakness. Many patients report pain at night and at rest when lying on the affected shoulder, and when raising and lowering the arm. Weakness is generally reported when a patient lifts and lowers the arm, as well as when rotating the arm. Certain patients may also experience popping or cracking sensation when the arm is engaged in certain movements.
Rotator Cuff Injury Diagnosis
Dr. Getelman will begin his rotator cuff injury evaluation by discussing the patient’s symptoms and performing a thorough physical examination. During the examination, Dr. Getelman will move the arm in several different directions to assess pain level, strength and range of motion. A series of X-rays, an MRI scan or an ultrasound may also be performed to gain a detailed view of the entire shoulder joint and to examine any bone or soft tissue injuries.