What Causes Rotator Cuff Tears?

Your shoulder comprises a group of muscles and tendons called the rotator cuff, which keeps the head of your arm bone attached to the socket. These muscles and tendons can sometimes tear, primarily due to an injury or degeneration. Most people with rotator cuff injury experience a dull ache in the shoulder, worsening as you stretch the arm away from the body. Although anyone can develop a rotator cuff tear, it is common among older people and those with jobs that require repetitive overhead motions, such as carpenters and painters. If a rotator cuff tear results from a single injury, Dr. Ronald Hess West Chester recommends medical evaluation to establish the proper treatment. Below are the causes of a rotator cuff tear.

Causes of rotator cuff tear

There are two leading causes of a rotator cuff tear, including injuries and degeneration.

  • Injury

If you fall on your outstretched arm, you can develop a tear in this group and muscles and tendons. Lifting a heavy load with a jerking motion can tear your rotator cuff. A rotator cuff tear due to a fall may occur with other injuries such as a dislocated shoulder or a fractured collarbone.

  • Degeneration

Most tears result from the gradual wearing down of tendons that occur as you advance in age. The degeneration naturally occurs and is more common in the dominant arm. Deterioration may be due to several factors, including repetitive stress. For example, moving your shoulder is the same way it stresses the rotator cuff muscles and tendons. Sports such as baseball and tennis require repetitive shoulder movements, which strain your muscles. Weightlifting also causes stress on the tendons, and over time, they may develop a tear. Overuse tears can also result from routine chores and occupations such as building and construction.

The insufficient blood supply in the tendons can also result in a tear. As you grow older, the blood supply in the tendons decreases, which impairs the body’s natural ability to repair the damage. Blood is rich in oxygen and nutrients, which facilitate healing. When there is an inadequate blood supply to the tendons, which can ultimately lead to a tendon tear.

The formation of bone spurs on the underside of the acromion bone can cause a tendon tear. Your body forms bone spurs as a natural response to replace worn-down bones. However, these tiny bones can rub on the rotator cuff tendon, causing a tear. Specialists refer to this condition as shoulder impingement.

What are the symptoms of a rotator cuff tear?

Most people with this problem experience pain at night, especially when lying on the affected shoulder. The affected arm may also feel painful with specific movements such as lifting and lowering. Moving your arm in certain positions may produce a crackling sensation, and the affected arm may also feel weak. If the tear happens suddenly due to a fall, you may feel intense pain with a snapping sensation and weakness in your upper arm. Tears that develop due to degeneration are usually less painful, but symptoms worsen over time.

If you have any of the above symptoms, book an appointment with your doctor at Ronald Hess, MS, DO for medical evaluation and treatment to improve your quality of life.

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