My shoulder hurts, and I think it might be a rotator cuff tear. Now what?
Dr. Gause says: “Persistent pain and loss of mobility in your shoulder can have several causes. One of them could be a rotator cuff tear, a common sports injury that involves a tear in the muscles and tendons that surround the upper arm bone. A rotator cuff tear may develop suddenly from a single, traumatic movement or gradually from the wear and tear of everyday life.
“Symptoms of a rotator cuff problem that suggest medical intervention include pain that radiates over the shoulder and into the arm; pain that awakens you from sleep; weakness or an inability to move the shoulder or arm; stiffness, swelling or popping of the joint; and pain that becomes sharper during movements such as pushing, pulling and reaching overhead.
“Your orthopedic surgeon will ask about your symptoms and conduct a physical examination to check for tenderness, weakness, instability and loss of mobility. Nonsurgical treatments are effective in relieving symptoms in most cases. However, some patients may need surgery to repair damage to the rotator cuff. Depending on the cause, location and extent of the damage, your doctor may recommend surgery.”
Trenton M. Gause, MD, is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon at Tri Rivers who focuses on hand and upper extremity care. He treats rotator cuff injuries; shoulder instability; arthritis of the hand, wrist and elbow; carpal tunnel syndrome, including endoscopic carpal tunnel release; cubital tunnel syndrome; masses or ganglions; tendinitis; fractures, dislocations and other acute injuries; and ligament or tendon injuries.