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.
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.