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Rotator Cuff Tear

Supraspinatus and Infraspinatus are the most commonly injured rotator cuff muscles. Due to the function of these muscles, sports which involve a lot of shoulder rotation such as swimming, baseball, tennis, and surfing, often put the rotator cuff muscles under a lot of stress. Problems with the rotator cuff muscles can be classed into two categories Tears of the tendons/muscles, and Inflammation of the tendons (often called tendinopathy or tendonitis).

Acute Tear

Acute tears tend to be associated with sudden, powerful movement. This might include falling over onto an outstretched hand or throwing or hammering can result in tears.

The symptoms will usually include:

  • Sudden, tearing feeling in the shoulder, followed by severe pain through the arm
  • Limited movement of the shoulder due to pain or muscle spasm
  • Severe pain for a few days (due to bleeding and muscle spasm) which usually resolves quickly
  • Specific tenderness (“x marks the spot”) over the point of rupture/tear
  • If there is a severe tear, you will not be able to abduct your arm (raise it out to the side) without assistance

Chronic Tear

A chronic tear develops over a period of time. They usually occur at or near the tendon, as a result of the tendon rubbing against the overlying bone. This is usually associated with an impingement syndrome.

  • Usually found on the dominant side
  • More often an affliction of the 40+ age group
  • Pain is worse at night, and can affect sleeping
  • Gradual worsening of pain, eventually some weakness
  • Eventually unable to abduct arm (lift out to the side) without assistance or do any activities with the arm above the head
  • Some limitations of other movements depending on the tendon affected

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