The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that covers the top of the upper arm bone (humerus) and holds it in place in the shoulder joint. It allows the arm to rotate at the shoulder joint. Rotator cuff tears are a common source of shoulder pain.
Most rotator cuff tears are the result of overuse of the muscles and tendons or they are caused by an injury. Determining if a tear is the cause of your pain depends on the symptoms of your condition. An orthopedic doctor can help you determine the source of the pain. Below are some of the signs doctors look for when diagnosing a rotator cuff tear.
If you have a torn rotator cuff, you will experience pain over the outside of the shoulder and upper arm. Pain most commonly occurs while performing overhead activities.
An orthopedic doctor can help determine the strength of your rotator cuff by performing special tests. If you cannot raise your arm over your head or hold your arm directly out from the body, the rotator cuff is most likely torn.
Inability to Perform Normal Tasks
A common complaint by patients with a torn rotator cuff is not being able to perform daily activities such as combing their hair, reaching behind their back, or sleeping on the affected shoulder. Be sure to share with your doctor any tasks that you are unable to perform.
Abnormal Test Results
Diagnosis of a rotator cuff tear is also based on physical examination. Orthopedic doctors perform tests such as MRIs, X-rays, and ultrasounds to help see the extent of damage to the tendons and muscles.