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The symptoms of a rotator cuff tear

The term "rotator cuff tear" most often refers to the detachment of the tendon from its point of insertion on the humerus. Most tears occur in the supraspinatus tendon but other tendons can also be affected. In more serious cases, all of the rotator cuff tendons may be involved.
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The symptoms of a rotator cuff tear

The term "rotator cuff tear" most often refers to the detachment of the tendon from its point of insertion on the humerus. Most tears occur in the supraspinatus tendon but other tendons can also be affected. In more serious cases, all of the rotator cuff tendons may be involved.
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The symptoms of a rotator cuff tear

Une « déchirure de la coiffe des rotateurs » est le plus souvent un détachement du tendon de son insertion à l’os huméral. Elle affecte surtout le sus-épineux mais peut aussi toucher d’autres tendons (sous-scapulaire et sous-épineux). Dans les cas plus graves, elle peut impliquer chacun des tendons de la coiffe des rotateurs.

What are the most common causes?

Since a healthy tendon is an extremely strong structure, tears occur in tendons that probably already show some degeneration.

A tear can occur unnoticed and gradually over time by a chronic impingement mechanism (common in people over the age of 60), or suddenly, following a fall, a sudden exertion or a jerking motion of the upper limb that causes the tendon to detach.

What are the symptoms?

Pain (felt with exertion or at night) is the most common symptom and is occasionally accompanied by shoulder weakness. In chronic cases, loss of muscle mass (atrophy) is also observed in the upper and posterior parts of the shoulder blade, usually with a decrease in strength; e.g. ability to lift an object above the head or to push a weight sideways.

How is it diagnosed?

Since tendons do not show up on conventional X-rays, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan or ultrasound is usually required to detect the tendon tear. Formerly popular, arthrography (injection of dye into the shoulder and a conventional X-ray) is sometimes used to show the movement of fluid across a torn rotator cuff.

Ultrasound

MRI

NOTE!

Rotator cuff tears do not always cause pain, weakness or muscle atrophy. These are usually smaller than 1 cm in diameter and are detected during a routine physical examination. They often occur in people over 60 or 70 years of age and are called “well-compensated benign cuff tears.” As a rule, no special treatment is required, other than an annual follow-up to ensure that the tear has not progressed. In such a case, it is considered part of the shoulder’s normal aging process.

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