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3 Signs of a Rotator Cuff Tear

Each year in the United States, rotator cuff tears send 2 million people to seek medical help, which includes members of our orthopaedic team at Western Orthopaedics.

As experts in shoulder injuries, we not only understand the many roads that can lead to pain and dysfunction in this major joint, we also understand how much a shoulder issue can impact your life.

So, if you’re struggling with a shoulder problem, our goal is to help you heal as quickly as possible, which starts with properly identifying the underlying cause. While nothing beats a visit to our practice for a correct diagnosis, we can get the ball rolling ahead of time by describing some of the symptoms of a common shoulder problem — a rotator cuff tear.

The role of your rotator cuff

Briefly, your rotator cuff is a group of soft tissues that attaches your arm to your body. More specifically, your rotator cuff is made up of four muscles that come together as a tendon that covers the end of your upper arm bone and attaches to your shoulder blade.

Aside from keeping your arm attached to your body, your rotator cuff also facilitates rotating and raising your arm.

Different degrees of rotator cuff damage

Now let's get into what can occur if you damage your rotator cuff. We break down rotator cuff tears into these categories:

As you might imagine, the severity of your symptoms often depend on the extent of the rotator cuff tear.

Another point we want to make is that a rotator cuff injury can stem from an acute injury or repetitive stress. Your risk for developing this condition also increases with age. Rotator cuff issues are found in less than 10% of people age 20 and younger as opposed to 62% in patients 80 and older.

Recognizing a rotator cuff tear

Now let’s get to the title of this blog post about signs of a rotator cuff tear, which can include:

1. Pain

You might feel a dull ache in your shoulder when you sleep at night, or you can feel sharp pain with certain movements, such as reaching for something. This pain is usually around the top of your shoulder, but it can radiate down into your upper arm.

2. Weakness

Since your rotator cuff allows for certain movements, such as lifting and rotating your arm, you might encounter difficulty with these actions. It’s not necessarily pain, but a weakness that affects your ability to use your arm fully.

3. Crackling

It’s not uncommon to develop crackling in your shoulder when you have a rotator cuff tear. This crackling can also be described as popping or clicking, and you can either sense it or hear it when you move your arm.

Of these three, it’s the pain and limited movement that are the real hallmarks of a rotator cuff tear.

Getting help for your rotator cuff

If your shoulder is painful, we want you to come see us for a diagnosis. This is important because a rotator cuff tear can be tricky when it comes to healing, so we want to set you on the right path as soon as possible.

For expert diagnosis and treatment of your shoulder issue, please contact one of our offices in Arvada or Denver, Colorado, to schedule an appointment.

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