The Anatomy of a Rotator Cuff Tear and How Northeast Spine & Sports Medicine Can Treat It

Snap, crackle, and pop. No, this isn’t the sound you hear when eating Rice Krispies cereal, but something that no athlete ever wants to hear. A rotator cuff tear can be devastating and painful for athletes who play sports such as baseball, football, tennis, and swimming. Continual fastballs, deep passes (like Aaron Rodgers launching a Hail Mary to the end zone), serves, and strokes take their toll over time by repeatedly putting stress on an athlete’s shoulder. At Northeast Spine & Sports Medicine, we provide expert treatment for rotator cuff injuries and sports medicine. In addition to providing care for your injury, we believe it’s important for you to understand what a rotator cuff tear is, and what its most common causes and signs are. Structure Your rotator cuff is a large tendon that is made up of four muscles that are covered around the shoulder joint, forming a cuff at the top of the humerus. These four muscles are:
  1. Supraspinatus
  2. Infraspinatus
  3. Subscapularis
  4. Teres minor
The primary function of the rotator cuff is to rotate and lift the arm and keep the ball of the shoulder within the joint. Injury A rotator cuff tear can stem from a number of different causes including:
  • Chronic wear and tear
  • Degeneration of the tendon
  • Lifting weights
  • Falling on your shoulder
  • Breaking a fall with your arm
This tear can occur suddenly (characterized by a noise, pain, and weakness) or gradually extend and get worse over time. Signs such as decreased strength and increased pain signify that a tear is growing larger. Symptoms can include pain in your shoulder and arm, tenderness, snapping sounds, difficulty moving your shoulder, and the inability to sleep on your shoulder. Treatment If you believe you have a rotator cuff injury, we highly suggest that you rest your joint and ice your shoulder multiple times a day. If you come to our office for treatment, we will also work with you to develop a treatment plan that includes range-of-motion exercises and physical rehabilitation at one of our convenient locations. Steroid injections and tendon repair surgery might also be necessary depending on the severity of the tear. If you are dealing with a rotator cuff tear, we encourage you to schedule an appointment by calling one of our five offices or filling out a form on our website immediately.