You may feel constant or recurring pain, particularly when you’re doing something like decorating or window cleaning when your arm is above your head. The pain may be bad at night, stopping you sleeping on the affected side.
Many people find that their muscles are weaker, and hear grating or cracking sounds when they move their arm. You may not be able to move your arm to its full extent.
The rotator cuff is made up of four muscles and tendons that surround the top of the upper arm bone known as the humerus. The cuff holds your arm in the shoulder joint. It can become torn either through a single event like lifting a heavy weight or having a fall, or just through general wear and tear. Patients have often experienced shoulder impingement syndrome beforehand.
The doctor will chat through your symptoms and then examine your shoulder. They might need to use an X-ray, ultrasound or MRI to confirm diagnosis.
Simply resting the shoulder and perhaps some physiotherapy should help. Your doctor may also suggest anti-inflammatories and stretching exercises. Corticosteroid injections can help bring down the pain, but will be used sparingly as they may damage the tendon.
You might need surgery depending on how big the tear is and where it is. If the tear is relatively small it might be possible to repair using an arthroscope, which is a type of endoscope inserted into the joint through a small incision.