Acute rotator cuff tear - Fact Sheet

What is a acute rotator cuff tear?

The rotator cuff is a group of 4 muscles that surround the shoulder. They work mainly as a dynamic stabiliser of the shoulder, ensuring the shoulder joint is stable when moving in all directions. A rotator cuff tear involves a disruption to the muscles and/or tendons of the rotator cuff and is a common injury of the shoulder. Rotator cuff injuries that go untreated can lead to further shoulder injury and dysfunction.

What causes it?

Sudden, sharp explosive movements of the shoulder under high load can cause a tear. Common mechanisms of injury include:
• Pushing, pulling or lifting objects with incorrect technique
• Dogs pulling on a leash, pulling on the shoulder. Children pulling down on the arm/shoulder.
• Falling onto the shoulder

Acute Rotator cuff tear

Signs and Symptoms​ of an acute rotator cuff tear?

• Unilateral, sharp shoulder pain, particularly with overhead movements or moving the up upwards out to the side (abduction)
• This pain can refer down the side of the shoulder, normally about halfway to the elbow
• As a protective mechanism, other muscles in the shoulder and arm can stiffen up.

Shoulder Assessment

Treatment of an acute rotator cuff tear ?

Mobility exercises: Exercises that promote a gradual improvement of shoulder range of motion, without aggravating the injury.

Strengthening exercises: particularly of the muscles between the shoulder blades and the rotator cuff muscles itself, improving muscular strength and control of the shoulder complex. These will gradually progress to overhead exercises, which are more demanding of the rotator cuff.

A positive attitude! These issues can take some time to resolve, particularly if you are over 50 years old. Don’t get disheartened! You WILL get better!

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