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How to Tell if You Have a Rotator Cuff Tear

How to Tell if You Have a Rotator Cuff Tear

Your rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that works a bit like a seat belt, keeping your shoulder in place so you can safely move through the world. Unfortunately, as many as 4 million Americans each year learn just how debilitating an injured rotator cuff can be.

Board-certified orthopedic sports medicine surgeon Dr. Stephen Fisher and the team at our offices in Cumming and Buford, Georgia, provide comprehensive care for shoulder injuries, including rotator cuff tears.

If you think you’re dealing with this injury, read on to learn about common signs and what to do when they appear.

Rotator cuff tear basics

Rotator cuff tears are literally tears in the muscles or tendons surrounding your shoulder. They can be partial or complete and usually stem from an acute injury, which causes sudden symptoms, or overuse, which causes gradual wear-and-tear. 

While anyone can develop a rotator cuff tear, factors that raise your risk include:

A rotator cuff tear can also be a complication of a dislocated shoulder, after you move your arm in an awkward manner.

Rotator cuff tear signs

Rotator cuff tears affect people differently. Pain that feels like a dull ache deep within your shoulder is a common symptom. That shoulder pain may make it hard to reach behind your back, wash or comb your hair, or sleep restfully.

You can also develop muscle weakness, with or without pain, from a torn rotator cuff.

How to know if you have a rotator cuff tear

Many conditions fuel shoulder pain, so if you’re experiencing rotator cuff symptoms, a proper assessment is key.

During your exam at our office, Dr. Fisher presses on particular parts of your affected shoulder and gently moves the joint into various positions. He also assesses your shoulder muscle strength. He may order imaging tests, such as an X-ray or ultrasound.

Rotator cuff treatment

The specifics of your rotator cuff treatment depend on the severity of your injury and your overall health. 


For a mild partial tear, anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy, or steroid injections may suffice. More severe and complete rotator cuff tears may require arthroscopy or open surgery.

If your tear is related to severe shoulder arthritis, you may be a candidate for reverse shoulder replacement. This surgical procedure re-creates the function of your damaged cuff by replacing the joint with a metal ball.

To learn more about rotator cuff tears or get the treatment and relief you need, call the location nearest you or book an appointment through our website today.

Dr. Fisher is now offering Shoulder Replacement Surgery. Call us to book your appointment today.

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