The Truth About Rotator Cuff Tears
Updated: Aug 11
Let's break down a situation that we see happen all the time because there's a lot of misinformation out there, and people are not getting the kind of help they need.
You begin experiencing shoulder pain. Maybe this came on suddenly or maybe it slowly started developing over time. Your shoulder hurts when you reach or lift overhead, and it may be sore enough to where it's waking you up at night.
It's really crucial to understand what this DOES mean and what this DOESN'T mean.
Very often, the first place many people will think to go when they're experiencing shoulder pain is to a physician who may order an injection or special imaging like an MRI. There's nothing wrong with seeing your physician or with getting an injection or an MRI. However, there IS something wrong if you were not given a thorough assessment and an injection or MRI is ordered hastily, or there are incorrect assumptions made about this process.
For example, going into this MRI, you may have been told that you likely have a tear in your rotator cuff or labrum, and your mind already starts thinking the worst. When you get the results back from the MRI, there's a pretty decent chance it shows something (like a tear or arthritis or an impingement problem).
This is ok. This can be totally normal and is not necessarily the source of your pain.
Before you start thinking that a tear in your shoulder is just your new lot in life, that you have to quit your workouts, or you start thinking about surgery, you need to understand what an MRI can and can't tell you about your shoulder pain.
Research studies show that tears, arthritis, or other degenerative changes are common findings in MRI results, even in people with no pain.
Just because a static picture showed that you have some structural changes does not mean that these things are a symptom of your pain. A picture of your shoulder while you're lying still does NOT give the full story of why your shoulder hurts with certain movements. We all have degenerative changes in our bodies, and THIS IS NORMAL (and can start at least by our 20’s). Just like we get wrinkles as we age, our muscles and joints show signs of wear whether we're experiencing pain in those places or not.
This is a huge misinformation problem because we see people every day who have been told either that they need surgery or that they have to stop doing things they love to do like lifting their kids, weightlifting, etc... without ever getting a thorough physical movement-based exam to explore ALL of the potential causes of their shoulder pain.
Your shoulder pain could be coming from any number of different underlying causes, even other related parts of the body like your neck or back, and these are usually highly treatable WITHOUT medication, injections, or surgery. Stiffness, weakness, or muscle trigger points can be putting stress on your shoulder, and when you get the right diagnosis and treatment for these root causes of your shoulder pain, you should be able to get back to normal function and performance.
If you're tired of experiencing shoulder pain and you want some real answers about what's going on and what to do about it, we can help.
Don't assume that a static picture tells the full story of why your shoulder is stiff or sore. A neverending cycle of medications and injections with a looming potential surgery isn't the answer without first exploring all the other potential sources of your shoulder pain and evidence-based conservative treatment.
At 901PT, our passion is to educate people.
We don't want you to be scared by what an image shows or because someone told you that you have to permanently avoid certain movements.
If you're ready to move past a rushed or possibly inaccurate diagnosis and deal with the real root of the problem, we can help.
The first step is to tell us more about what's going on--