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How to Know if You Have a Rotator Cuff Injury

You use your shoulders more than you realize throughout the day; so when you suffer some kind of injury, the pain can knock you down pretty quick. Some injuries only involve a pulled muscle and should get better in a few days — but what if it doesn’t? If you’re dealing with pain and trouble moving your arm and shoulder, you could be dealing with an injured rotator cuff.

At Alpha Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, our staff is ready to help you figure out what’s causing your shoulder pain. Our skilled team of board certified orthopedic surgeons determine if you have a rotator cuff injury, and if so, what treatment is appropriate to get you back to your busy life as soon as possible. 

How your rotator cuff works

Your shoulder is a ball and socket joint — meaning the head of your humerus meets the socket of your shoulder blade. This joint is commonly known as your glenohumeral joint. Your labrum, deltoid, and bicep tendons also help to form the shoulder joint, assisting you with movement of your arm.

The rotator cuff is probably the most well known part of your shoulder, as it helps you perform certain movements of your arm. It’s made up four different muscles, which include:

These four muscles help to keep your upper arm in your shoulder socket. The rotator cuff holds your arm in place when you move your arm away from the body; keeping it from coming out of the socket. However, when you hurt your rotator cuff, it leads to several injuries that impede certain arm movements.

Common rotator cuff injuries

Rotator cuff tears are probably the most well-known injury to your shoulder. This happens when one or more of the muscles that make up your rotator cuff are torn from some kind of trauma. A tear is either categorized as a partial tear or a complete tear. 

A partial tear only involves fraying of the muscles, but they’re still attached to your upper arm bone. A complete tear, however, means the muscle has torn completely through. This leaves your arm vulnerable to dislocation.

If you suffer a rotator cuff tear, our doctors may try to manage it conservatively, with rest and physical therapy. If you don’t have a complete tear, this may be enough to regain strength and resume normal activities. If it doesn’t and your pain is interfering with your work or daily activities, you could need surgery.

There are other forms of injury that your rotator cuff can sustain, some more mild than others. A few of the most common types of rotator cuff injuries include:

Tendinopathy, which happens when you feel discomfort or pain where your tendons are, is commonly the very mildest form of an injury. It often occurs with overuse of your shoulder or repetitive motion that irritates your tendons.

All of these injuries could either be due to trauma or from repetitive use of your shoulder from your job or from certain sports. No matter what condition is causing your pain, it’s important to know what signs to look out for that can signal a problem with your rotator cuff.

Symptoms to be aware of

Symptoms of an injury to your rotator cuff vary and depend on the severity and nature of your injury. For example, you might not experience much pain at all with this type of injury, or you could have terrible discomfort. There are other symptoms that can help clue you in that you’ve injured your rotator cuff, including:

Another symptom of this type of injury is difficulty with simple everyday tasks, like getting dressed or doing your hair. If you do have pain, it sometimes gets worse at night. This can be extremely frustrating because the pain makes it hard for you to get comfortable and get a good night’s sleep. 

If you’ve injured your shoulder and it’s beginning to affect how you work or perform daily activities, it’s a good idea to come in to see one of our shoulder pain specialists. Early treatment at our orthopedic center helps decrease further injury.

If you’re dealing with shoulder pain and think you might have an injured rotator cuff, contact Alpha Orthopedics and Sports Medicine at one of our three convenient locations to schedule a consultation or get a hold of us online to set up an appointment today.

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