When you see your orthopedic doctor, your doctor will assess the mobility of your shoulder, will assess the strength. We have ways of assessing the integrity of the rotator cuff with certain physical examination findings in order to see if your rotator cuff is still intact. We also inspect the shoulder, look to see if there’s any evidence of atrophy in your shoulder – meaning the muscles are weakened for one reason or another. Oftentimes, we’ll get x-rays of your shoulder to assess for other conditions like arthritis of the shoulder. With the physical exam and the diagnostic imaging (namely in the office – most commonly it will be x-rays), your orthopedic doctor should have a good sense of whether you have a rotator cuff tear. If there is concern for a rotator cuff tear, oftentimes your doctor will order an MRI. An MRI is a great test because it allows us to see the soft tissues in the shoulder. It will show us your ligaments. It will show us your cartilage. It will show us all of the rotator cuff. It will allow us to see if you have a rotator cuff tear, whether it be a partial thickness tear or a full thickness tear.
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