What You Should Do If You Think You May Have Torn Your Rotator Cuff

May 01, 2023
What You Should Do If You Think You May Have Torn Your Rotator Cuff
If your shoulder has been giving you more and more trouble, and the pain is even keeping you up at night, you may have a torn rotator cuff. Read on to find out what you should do if that’s the case!

If you’re struggling with shoulder pain that gets worse at night and often keeps you from sleeping, or if you have weakness in your shoulder and you can’t raise your arm without pain, you may be suffering from a rotator cuff tear.

About two million Americans a year experience rotator cuff tears. They can happen quickly in a fall or accident, or they can develop over time because of wear-and-tear in your shoulder.

However the problem occurs, you’ll want to fix it to improve your quality of life, and the team at Southwest Orthopedic Associates in Fort Worth, Texas, is here to help. Here’s our best advice on what you should do if you think you may have torn your rotator cuff.

What is a rotator cuff?

Your rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons in your shoulder that help you lift and move your arms. The cuff surrounds the ball-shaped head of the humerus (the upper arm bone), keeping it secure in the shoulder blade socket.

A tear occurs when the tendons pull away from the arm bones. You can have a partial tear (the tendon is still somewhat attached) or a complete tear (the tendon separates completely from the bone and has a rip or hole in it). 

Tears are more common as you age. They can be caused by repetitive motions, heavy lifting, bone spurs, or even an accident or injury.

Symptoms can begin as a dull, nagging ache. You may have trouble lifting your arm, a popping or clicking sound when you move your arm, and pain in your shoulder that gets worse at night.

What should you do if you think you have a tear?

If these symptoms sound familiar and you think you may have a rotator cuff tear, schedule an appointment with your doctor right away to get checked out. Early treatment can make a big difference - it can keep your symptoms from getting worse and can get the healing process started right away.

If it will be a few days before you can get in to see a doctor, try to limit movements with your shoulder. Don’t lift your arm up, and don’t keep doing repetitive motions over and over. Your goal should be to rest your shoulder as much as possible until you can be seen.

What is the treatment for a torn rotator cuff?

Treatment for your injury will depend on how bad the tear is. A tear will not heal completely without surgery, but nonsurgical treatments can improve your function and decrease your pain so you may not need surgery.

Nonsurgical treatments may include an arm sling and activity modification to give your shoulder time to heal, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as ibuprofen) to reduce swelling and pain, physical therapy to strengthen and stretch your muscles, and steroid injections, which can also help ease your pain and swelling.

Surgery may be necessary if you have a complete tear, if your job depends on your shoulder function, or if nonsurgical treatments don’t work. Most rotator cuff surgeries are done arthroscopically to reattach the tendon. If the tear is too extensive, a tendon transfer or shoulder replacement may be needed to restore full function.

If you need a diagnosis or treatment for a rotator cuff injury, our expert team at Southwest Orthopedic Associates are the best around. We’ll examine your injury and build a custom treatment plan designed to help you recover as soon as possible. To schedule an appointment, call our office at 817-731-9400 or use our convenient online scheduling assistant. We’ll have your shoulder as good as new before you know it!