Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Shoulder FAQ

Question:

After all these years, I finally found out the reason my shoulder is weak and cracks every time I raise it up over head. I have a rotator cuff tear. But I'm wondering why something like this doesn't hurt?

Answer:

Many people injure the rotator cuff and don't realize it. Or they may have had a shoulder injury at one time but didn't go see the doctor. Over time, the tissues either knit back together or filled in with scar tissue or fat. Pain, if present, went away. But it's also possible you just didn't have any painful symptoms to alert you to the problem. This is more common in adults who experience degeneration of the rotator cuff as they get older. And it is also the case that some people simply have more pain, symptoms, and disability with a rotator cuff tear than others. No one knows for sure why these differences exist. Experts suggest that age may play a role -- and perhaps the strength of the other muscles around the shoulder. If the biceps and deltoid muscles are intact, they can accomodate for the loss of strength from the torn rotator cuff. And then there is the size and shape of the tear itself. Large or massive tears that can't be repaired (or repaired easily) present with more chronic symptoms. Left untreated, the body does what it can to heal itself. The affected individual does what he or she can do to adapt and the rest is history. Ryan T. Bicknell, MD, MSc, FRCSC. Failed Rotator Cuff Surgery: What Can We Do? In Current Orthopaedic Practice. September/October 2010. Vol. 21. No. 5. Pp. 448-452.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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