How to Identify a Torn Rotator Cuff and Seek Proper Treatment

Article by Zoe Russell

How to Identify a Torn Rotator Cuff and Seek Proper Treatment

Suppose you’re experiencing shoulder pain that disrupts your sleep and leaves you wondering whether you have torn your rotator cuff. In that case, it’s crucial to understand the signs and seek appropriate care. This article will discuss the two types of rotator cuff tears and guide in identifying them. Additionally, it emphasises the importance of early physiotherapy support and referral to a shoulder specialist when necessary.

Types of Rotator Cuff Tears

There are two main types of rotator cuff tears: traumatic and atraumatic.

Traumatic Tears

A traumatic tear occurs when you injure your shoulder due to a specific, memorable, and forceful event. Examples include falling onto your arm or experiencing a shoulder dislocation. Signs of a traumatic tear may include intense pain, sleep interruption, and limited arm movement, particularly when lifting or rotating it away from your body.

Atraumatic Tears

An atraumatic tear occurs without recollection of a significant force or injury. These tears often result from repetitive microtraumas, where the cumulative effect of multiple low threshold forces exceeds your shoulder’s capacity. It’s possible to tear your rotator cuff from a seemingly innocuous activity you perform regularly. Symptoms of an atraumatic tear are similar to those of a traumatic tear. They may include pain, disrupted sleep, inability to lay on your shoulder at night, and difficulty moving your arm. In these cases, changes to the rotator cuff tendons often occur before the onset of symptoms.

Management and Seeking Treatment

The management of rotator cuff tears depends on factors such as tear size, the nature of the injury, and your shoulder’s functionality. If you experience any of the following symptoms, it is advisable to seek physiotherapy support promptly:

  1. Constant pain disrupts your sleep.
  2. Inability to move your arm effectively.

Physiotherapy can provide valuable assistance in recovery, and some tears may necessitate referral to a shoulder specialist. At your local PhysioWorks, experienced physiotherapists offer same-day appointments and help you on your path to recovery.


Identifying a torn rotator cuff requires careful consideration of the type of tear and associated symptoms. Whether the tear is traumatic or atraumatic, seeking appropriate treatment early to prevent further complications is crucial. Physiotherapy support and potential referral to a shoulder specialist can significantly aid in your recovery. Early intervention is vital to restoring your shoulder’s health and functionality.

For additional information on rotator cuff tears, please refer to: