How Can I Tell If I’ve Torn My Rotator Cuff?

Article by Zoe Russell

How Can You Tell If You Tore Your Rotator Cuff?

So you have hurt your shoulder – and it is painful. It is interrupting your sleep, and you are lying awake at night, and you wonder – have I torn my rotator cuff?

How Can You Tell?

There are two types of Rotator Cuff Tears.

  • Traumatic Tears
  • Atraumatic Tears

A traumatic tear occurs when you sustain trauma to your shoulder. This trauma could be a fall where you reach out and land on your arm or even a shoulder dislocation. In essence, something specific, memorable and traumatic happens to your shoulder.

You may experience intense pain, it interrupts your sleep, and you may be unable to move your arm, especially with lifting and rotating your arm away from your body.

An atraumatic tear is when your symptoms occur without recollection of a significant force. These atraumatic tears often result from microtraumas. Essentially, the effect of multiple low threshold forces beyond the capacity of your shoulder. A small force, or something that you do every day causes a tear to your shoulder. Often the symptoms of an atraumatic tear are the same as a traumatic tear, where you have pain, and interrupted sleep due to this pain. Commonly, with the inability to lay on your shoulder at night and an inability to move your arm. In these cases, the rotator cuff tendons often display changes to the tendon preceding this trauma.

How we manage these tears is often dictated by the size of the tear, the nature of the precipitating event, and your shoulder’s function. If you have any of these symptoms:

  • Constant pain, that interrupts your sleep
  • Inability to move your arm

You may have sustained a tear to your rotator cuff.

Please seek physiotherapy support early, as some tears may require referral to a shoulder specialist. With same-day appointments available – your local PhysioWorks is well equipped with experienced physiotherapists to help you on the path to recovery.

More info: Rotator Cuff Tears

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