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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 also allows the arm to rotate at the shoulder joint. Rotator cuff tears are a common source of shoulder pain— so how do you know if you have a torn rotator cuff?
Most rotator cuff tears are the result of overuse of the muscles and tendons, or they are caused by an injury or a fall. Determining if a tear is the cause of your pain depends on the symptoms of your condition. Here are some of the signs our physicians 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
Patients with torn rotator cuffs often complain about 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 determine the extent of the damage to the tendons and muscles.