What Is A Rotator Cuff Tear?

It’s an incredibly common injury that can limit your mobility, interfere with your daily activities, and cause a surprising amount of pain. We’re talking about rotator cuff tears. If left untreated, these seemingly trivial injuries can increase your risk of developing more serious conditions including osteoarthritis and significantly diminish your quality of life.

Causes

Rotator cuff tears are typically caused in one of two ways: through repetitive motion, or due to trauma. Athletes are particularly prone to rotator cuff injuries due to regularly using the same arm to throw a ball or swing a bat or golf club. Likewise, manual laborers such as house painters, construction workers, and window washers are also at increased risk thanks to the repetitive nature of their jobs.

However, even if you don’t play sports or work in a profession that demands a lot of physical activity, you can still sustain a rotator cuff tear if you try to lift something that’s too heavy for you or if you fall on your arm.

Symptoms

Here are some of the signs to watch out for:

  • A popping or clicking sound when you move your arm

  • Weakness in your shoulder

  • Difficulty lifting things you normally could

  • Difficulty raising your arm over your head

  • Pain when you move your arm in certain ways or lie on your shoulder

If you suspect you may have a rotator cuff injury, it’s important to see your doctor for a proper diagnosis. This will entail a physical exam that tests your muscle strength and range of motion and may involve medical imaging (such as ultrasound or MRI) to judge the extent of the tissue damage.

If left untreated, a torn rotator cuff can eventually lead to more serious complications including osteoarthritis or adhesive capsulitis (or “frozen shoulder”). This is when scar tissue forms around the injury site, causing your shoulder to stiffen and further impeding your range of motion. For that reason, it’s important to see your primary caregiver if you think you may have sustained such an injury.

Treatments

PRP Treatment

While more rotator cuff tears are typically best treated surgically, the use of platelet-rich plasma (or PRP) can sometimes be used to help heal partial tears, especially when administered in conjunction with traditional physical therapy. Recent research suggests that the addition of the platelet-rich plasma may help to accelerate the long process of tissue repair in more minor injuries, helping sufferers regain full mobility faster.

Stem Cell Therapy

Stem cell therapy (also called regenerative therapy) has also shown promise as a treatment for rotator cuff injuries. In this outpatient procedure, repair cells are extracted from the patient’s blood and injected directly into the injury site, where they help the body regrow healthy tissue and heal the tear.