If you’re having pain in your shoulder and you’re concerned that you may have a rotator cuff tear, things to consider would be: “Did I hurt my shoulder? Was there something specific that happened?” Also: “Can I bring my arm up over my shoulder? Am I weak?” Depending on your symptoms, the symptoms very much help dictate what’s going on and it might save you a trip to the doctor. If you can bring your arm up over your head, don’t have much weakness or any weakness, and you’re 35 years old, it’s very unlikely that you have a rotator cuff tear. In general, rotator cuff tears are very uncommon in patients 40, 45, and younger. So if you’re below the age of 45 or so, it’s unlikely to be a rotator cuff tear. Very frequently I’ll have patients come in who are 20-30 and they’re convinced that they have a rotator cuff tear and almost without fail, they do not have a rotator cuff tear. They have a shoulder issue, but it’s not a rotator cuff tear. Now, if you’re in your 50s or above and you’re having pain or weakness in your shoulder, you’re having difficulty sleeping at night and perhaps you lifted up a heavy pail when you’re working in the garden over the weekend, then yes – that certainly would be something concerning for a rotator cuff tear. I would suggest seeing your orthopedic surgeon for an evaluation.
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