The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that offer support for the upper arm bone, also known as the humerus, attaching the bone to the shoulder to help with arm movement. When a rotator cuff tendon is torn, the cuff’s connection to the humerus is no longer as strong. This results in pain and an inability to lift or rotate your arm. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons says millions of people see doctors because of rotator problems every year.
Two of the most common causes of rotator cuff tears that we see in our practice are from:
Car accidents that cause a driver or passenger to thrown around the vehicle;
Slip-and-falls in which the victim lands on an outstretched arm in an attempt to break the fall;
Motorcycle accidents and bicycle accidents where the biker is thrown from the cycle or bike.
Car accidents, slip-and-falls, motorcycle accidents and bicycle accidents will often lead to acute tearing of the rotator cuff tendons. However, there is also a more gradual tearing of the rotator cuff which is called degenerative tearing. This can often be associated with sports and weight lifting; activities which wear on the arm muscles and tendons over time.
Sometimes it is difficult to know if the discomfort you are feeling is simple soreness or if it something more serious, like a rotator cuff tear. The following are some common symptoms of rotator cuff tears to help you understand the seriousness of your injury. Rotator cuff tears will often cause:
Pain and/or weakness while raising or lowering your arm.
Pain and/or weakness while rotating your arm.
Pain while lying on your arm.
Snapping or cracking sounds when attempting to move your arm.
If you are experiencing intense pain, or the discomfort you are feeling is continuous, you should seek medical attention. In diagnosing you, your doctor will examine your arm, shoulder, and neck to check for limited mobility or tender spots. Your doctor might also order X-ray testing or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to get a better view of your bones and muscles.
If your doctor finds either partial tearing or full-thickness tearing, he or she will decide whether to treat the injury non-surgically—meaning rest, medication, and physical therapy—or surgically. In all cases, a torn rotator cuff is an injury which demands proper medical treatment.
For more information about arm and shoulder injuries, and other injuries, please see the Personal Injury Law Articles page on the Carpey Law website.