Wellness Wednesday: “Ouch! I Think I Just Tore My Rotator Cup!”


Loudoun County, Va. — I believe the term you’re looking for is “rotator cuff” and its main purpose is to encapsulate the shoulder joint and provide support. Now that that is out of the way, let’s get down to business.

What is the Rotator Cuff?

The Rotator Cuff consists of four muscles: Subscapularis, Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus and Teres Minor, that all come together to stabilize the shoulder’s multi-directional movements. Whether you experience a partial or a full tear in your rotator cuff, a lot of the same actions are happening inside of the joint. For instance, initially rotator cuff tears start as a slight irritation, leading to inflammation to the tendons which can result in some micro tears that will eventually evolve into partial or full tears.

A rotator cuff tear is a very common shoulder injury that we in physical therapy practices. We see rotator cuff tears amongst a wide variety of patients who: play high school and collegiate sports, perform general exercises for their health, play catch with their kids or are less active but felt a “funky” thing reaching into the cabinet. Other than pain, a few other signs and symptoms of rotator cuff tears we frequently see include:

  • Pain with inactivity and at night, especially when trying to lie on the injured side
  • Pain with lifting OR lowering the arm with certain movements
  • Weakness or inability to move the arm, especially with external rotation
  • Crackling” or “crunching sensations when moving the shoulder through normal ranges of motion

That one movement can cause a sharp pain throughout the shoulder joint and even some pain down the arm as well.

What do most of us when we feel pain?

We stay away from things that cause the injury site to hurt. In this case, most people tend to use their arm less and less, which makes getting through a normal day quite difficult. Could you imagine your daily routine without a “good shoulder”?

  • Difficulty brushing your teeth?
  • Unable to blow dry your hair? Curl it? Put it in a ponytail? Guys, brush it?
  • Difficulty putting on your shirt, pants, belt, jacket?
  • Difficulty reaching into the cabinet to grab that coffee cup, or even lift that coffee pot?
  • Difficulty moving the mouse or typing at your computer, or even getting your arm up to the desk with this new normal of working from home?
  • Unable to reach across your body to grab your seatbelt to and buckle your seat belt?

I’ve only run through about the first hour or two of my daily schedule and I’ve been faced with the six challenges that could potentially cause long-lasting pain. I would say now would be the time to come in and get that shoulder treated, before you “leave it alone and see if the pain stops” and the injury progresses to something more serious, such as complete immobility, or even surgery.

Note from our sponsor: Our physical therapists perform a very detailed evaluation that allows us to gain more information about your condition and create a personalized rehabilitation program in order for you to reach YOUR GOALS! Once the pain is under control, we being to focus on regaining your normal range of motion, decreasing any muscle tightness, introducing basic strengthening and finally adding in shoulder stability to help with returning to those overhead motions such as: reaching into cabinets, doing airplanes with your grandkids, or throwing the ball with your kid that has enough potential to make it the pros! Let us get you in NOW, to restore your function and increase your quality of life!


About Author

Loudoun Sports Therapy Center is a premier physical therapy clinic. We offer outpatient orthopedic and sports physical therapy as well as specialty programs.

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