Understanding the Most Common Shoulder Injury: Rotator Cuff Tears

July 15, 2023 by admin



The shoulder joint is one of the most mobile joints in the human body, allowing us to perform a wide range of movements. However, this mobility comes at the cost of stability, making the shoulder prone to injuries. Think of it as trading stability for flexibility. The size of the joint is tiny and often known in the industry as a  ” Golf ball on a tee “. In this article Okinawa Sports and Spinal explores the most common injuries as well as how chiropractic and Physical therapy may be of assistance.

Among the various shoulder injuries, rotator cuff tears are considered the most common and can cause significant pain and disability. In this blog post, we will delve into the details of rotator cuff tears, including their causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options.

What is a Rotator Cuff Tear?

The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint, providing stability and facilitating movement. A rotator cuff tear occurs when one or more of these tendons are damaged or torn. This injury can range from a partial tear, where the tendon is damaged but not completely severed, to a full-thickness tear, where the tendon is completely torn away from the bone.

Causes of Rotator Cuff Tears:

Rotator cuff tears can be caused by acute traumatic events or develop gradually over time due to repetitive motions or degenerative changes. Some common causes include:

  1. Repetitive Motions: Activities involving repetitive overhead motions, such as throwing, swimming, or lifting weights, can put strain on the rotator cuff tendons, leading to tears.
  2. Age-related Changes: As we age, the blood supply to the rotator cuff tendons diminishes, making them more susceptible to degeneration and tears.
  3. Traumatic Injuries: A fall, a direct blow to the shoulder, or a sudden jerking motion can cause an acute tear in the rotator cuff tendons.

Symptoms of Rotator Cuff Tears:

The symptoms of a rotator cuff tear may vary depending on the severity of the tear. Common signs and symptoms include:

  1. Pain: A dull ache deep in the shoulder, which may worsen when lying on the affected side or during certain movements.
  2. Weakness: Difficulty in lifting or rotating the arm, especially when performing activities that require overhead movements.
  3. Limited Range of Motion: Decreased mobility and stiffness in the shoulder joint, particularly when attempting to reach behind the back or overhead.
  4. Clicking or Popping Sensation: Some individuals may experience clicking or popping sounds in the shoulder joint during movement.

Diagnosis of Rotator Cuff Tears:

If a rotator cuff tear is suspected, your chiro, physio or Doctor will do a comprehensive evaluation, which may include:

  1. Medical History: The doctor will inquire about the symptoms, the mechanism of injury, and any relevant medical history.
  2. Physical Examination: The healthcare provider will perform various tests to assess the range of motion, strength, and tenderness in the shoulder.
  3. Imaging Tests: X-rays can help rule out other shoulder conditions, while an MRI or ultrasound scan can provide detailed images of the rotator cuff and confirm the presence and extent of a tear.

Treatment Options for Rotator Cuff Tears:

The treatment for a rotator cuff tear depends on several factors, including the size and location of the tear, the patient’s age, and activity level. The options may include:

  1. Non-Surgical Treatment: For partial tears or minor injuries, conservative approaches such as rest, physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, and corticosteroid injections can help relieve pain and improve functionality.
  2. Surgical Intervention: Large tears or tears that cause persistent pain and functional impairment may require surgical repair. Arthroscopic surgery, where small incisions are made, is a common minimally invasive technique used to repair the rotator cuff.
  3. Rehabilitation: Regardless of the chosen treatment, rehabilitation and physical therapy are crucial for restoring strength, flexibility, and function to the shoulder joint. A structured program will be tailored to each individual’s specific needs. One of the things Chiropractic and Physio can really help with is making sure the movement of scapula and spine is optimal which can take a lot of the strain on the shoulder joint.

Prevention and Prognosis:

While not all rotator cuff tears can be prevented, there are steps you can take to minimize the risk of injury. These include:

  1. Regular Exercise: Engage in shoulder-strengthening exercises and stretching routines to maintain shoulder stability and flexibility.
  2. Proper Technique: When participating in activities that involve repetitive shoulder movements, ensure you use proper form and technique to reduce strain on the rotator cuff.
  3. Avoid Overuse: Allow sufficient rest and recovery time between activities to avoid overuse injuries.

In terms of prognosis, the majority of individuals with rotator cuff tears respond well to non-surgical treatments, experiencing reduced pain and improved shoulder function. Surgical repair also has a high success rate, with most patients achieving satisfactory outcomes when combined with post-operative rehabilitation.


Rotator cuff tears are a prevalent shoulder injury that can cause pain, weakness, and functional limitations. Understanding the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options is crucial for prompt and effective management.

you suspect a rotator cuff tear or are experiencing persistent shoulder pain, pop down to Okinawa Sports and Spinal and see if we can help. It is essential to consult a healthcare professional who can provide a comprehensive evaluation and guide you toward the most appropriate course of treatment. With proper care and rehabilitation, individuals with rotator cuff tears can often regain strength and resume their daily activities with minimal restrictions.

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Chatan-Cho Okinawa

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