Condition: Shoulder tendon and muscle injuries can occur in any of the four muscle-tendon groups that surround the shoulder.
Background: Two common types are rotator cuff tears (RCTs) and long head of biceps tendon (LHB) tears. Typically, they are due to a trauma, such as a fall. However, they can also develop for other reasons, such as aging, which causes tendons to wear down. Another type is a pectoralis major (PM) tear. This occurs in the tendon that attaches the chest muscle to the upper arm bone and is typically associated with indirect trauma, like excessive weight lifting.
Risk Factors: Athletes or people with jobs that require repeated overhead motion are more at risk, especially for rotator cuff tears. Being over 40 is another risk factor.
History and Symptoms: The primary symptoms include pain and weakening in the shoulder.
Physical Exam: The doctor will examine the area for muscle tone, bruising or deformity, as well as range of motion and strength. They will also check for symmetry, and examine the opposite shoulder as well as the neck, to rule out any neck or spine issues.
Diagnostic Process: Special tests can be performed, such as ones to check rotator cuff strength. Imaging tests such as X-rays or ultrasound may also be ordered.
Rehab Management: If the tear is incomplete or not a full thickness tear (where the muscle is completely split in two), treatment usually involves modifying activity, physical therapy, pain control and pain medications. If these methods don’t help, corticosteroid injections can sometimes be helpful.
Other Resources for Patients and Families: The National Institutes of Health offers resources on shoulder problems in several languages and can mail print copies to patients and families.