Left image: The patient's arm is slightly abducted and externally rotated
Right image: Able to hold this position - suggestive of no massive tear
Your rotator cuff is made up of 4 muscles that lay close around your shoulder joint. They are responsible for up to 80% of your shoulder’s dynamic stability. A massive rotator cuff tear is when you have significantly torn some or all of these muscles.
Do I Have A Massive Rotator Cuff Tear?
These most frequently occur after a trauma. You may have fallen or injured yourself in a contact sport. It is common for you to have dislocated your shoulder when this has happened. If you have a massive rotator cuff tear, you will likely be unable to lift your arm. A simple test to do is if someone lifts your arm out to the side slightly and turns it outwards you will likely be unable to keep it in this position. If you are worried you have a massive rotator cuff tear, see a medical professional. You may need further imaging to rule out a bony injury or other issues around your shoulder. They should also check the area for any numbness/issues with certain muscles to rule out any nerve injury.
If you have been diagnosed with a massive rotator cuff tear, your first port of call should be to see an orthopaedic surgeon. You will likely need surgery to repair this followed by a period. After your surgery you will likely spend some time in a sling and then commence an extensive, gradual rehabilitation program to get you rotator cuff back functioning again. If you play contact sport, you will likely be unable to return to this for an extended period- normally 6 months.
If you are unable to have surgery or your surgeon feels he cannot repair this (usually in older people) then you will likely need to commence an extensive and lengthy rehabilitation program. The purpose of this is to train other muscles around your shoulder to compensate for your lack of a functioning rotator cuff. The program takes an extended period to complete and you need to really stick at it!