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shoulder tear

How do I know if I have a shoulder tear?

As a physical therapy provider, Total Sports Therapy knows the challenges of knowing if you have a shoulder tear. Determining if you have a shoulder tear involves paying attention to specific symptoms and, if necessary, seeking medical evaluation. Here are some signs and diagnostic steps to help identify a shoulder tear:

Common Symptoms of a Shoulder Tear

  1. Pain:
    • Pain at rest and at night, particularly if lying on the affected shoulder.
    • Pain when lifting or lowering your arm, or with specific movements.
  2. Weakness:
    • Weakness in the shoulder or arm.
    • Difficulty lifting objects, even those that are relatively light.
  3. Limited Range of Motion:
    • Reduced ability to move the shoulder, especially during activities like reaching overhead or behind your back.
  4. Popping or Clicking Sensation:
    • A popping, clicking, or catching sensation when you move your shoulder.
  5. Swelling and Bruising:
    • Swelling or bruising around the shoulder.
  6. Muscle Atrophy:
    • Noticeable decrease in muscle mass around the shoulder, which can occur over time.

Diagnostic Steps

  1. Medical History and Physical Examination:
    • A healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms, any recent injuries, and your medical history.
    • They will perform a physical examination, checking for pain, tenderness, range of motion, and strength.
  2. Imaging Tests:
    • X-rays: Can help rule out fractures or other bone abnormalities.
    • Ultrasound: Useful for visualizing soft tissues and dynamic assessment.
    • MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging): Provides detailed images of soft tissues, including muscles, tendons, and ligaments. It is often the best imaging test to confirm a rotator cuff tear or other soft tissue injuries.
    • CT Scan: Sometimes used for more detailed images if MRI is not available or suitable.
  3. Special Tests:
    • Drop Arm Test: The patient is asked to slowly lower their arm from an elevated position. Inability to control the arm or dropping it suddenly indicates a potential tear.
    • Empty Can Test: The patient holds their arm out straight in front, thumb pointing down, and the examiner applies downward pressure. Pain or weakness may suggest a tear.
    • Neer and Hawkins Tests: These tests help identify impingement, which may be associated with rotator cuff tears.

When to See a Doctor

If you experience persistent shoulder pain, weakness, limited range of motion, or any of the other symptoms mentioned above, it is important to consult a healthcare professional. Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent further damage and improve recovery outcomes.

A specialist, such as an orthopedic surgeon or a sports medicine physician, can provide a more accurate diagnosis and recommend appropriate treatment, which may include physical therapy, medication, or, in some cases, surgery. Contact our office at 480-272-7140, if you live in the Phoenix area and are looking for an orthopedic surgeon the specialize in treating shoulder conditions

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