We’ve got a bone to pick with the word “tear”. When it comes to shoulder injuries, it is SO misleading! Most people hear that they have a tear in their shoulder and they visualize a muscle that has been completely ripped in two. And that’s just not accurate!
The technical term for this injury is a “Rotator Cuff Tear”. You might also hear the specific muscle name such as “Supraspinatus” which is the most commonly injured muscle of the Rotator Cuff group. You also might hear it referred to as a muscle strain or a “partial thickness” or “full thickness” tear.
In actuality, there are 3 types of “tears” that you can have in your shoulder and only the third and the most extreme kind resemble what you are picturing.
First degree Shoulder Tear
A first degree tear ( or muscle strain… YES it’s the same thing!) involves some irritation and inflammation of the muscle. It is painful but there is NO structural damage. With the right kind of rest and rehab, your body can easily heal from this.
Second Degree Shoulder Tear
A second degree tear involved a small amount of muscle damage. But the beautiful thing about the body is it’s ability to heal from injuries! First and second degree tears will not have any long term damage after the initial healing process.
Third Degree Tear
A third degree tear is the kind that you are picturing. The entirely of the muscle has been torn in two. BUT if the two ends are close together and you are resting or in a sling, your body can still heal from this!
It is only when the two ends migrate farther apart that a surgical solution may be needed.
What should I do if I tore my shoulder recently?
It might be tempting to think that first and second degree tears don’t need rehab. But that would be a a bad assumption.
The body is smart. It wants to avoid pain. So it will begin to do things in a different way to avoid using the painful muscle while it heals. These compensation patterns become your new normal and lead to other muscles working way harder than they are supposed to. Your shoulder will naturally start to round forward in to a more protected position. This position and the compensation patterns will lead to other injuries and pain long term.
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What should I do if I tore my shoulder a long time ago?
If you tore your shoulder a long time ago and you are still having pain, it is likely that your shoulder did not heal properly the first time around (did you see a therapist for rehab?). The pain you are feeling now is likely caused by the compensation patterns and poor positioning that your shoulder has developed. The pain is being caused by a secondary cause and not the original shoulder tear.
The good news is that the position of your shoulder and these compensation patterns can still be fixed no matter how long they’ve been around. The approach will just be different than if we were seeing you when it had just happened. But, we can still eliminate your pain and get you back to the life you love!
And you may be asking “But what about scar tissue”. And while that is maybe a topic for another day, scar tissue isn’t necessarily bad! Scar tissue forms any time there has been damage to tissue. You likely have multiple areas of scar tissue all over your body and don’t even know it! When scar tissues heals correctly it is flexible and moveable just like normal tissue. It should not cause long term problems or pain.
It is when the scar tissue heals in a way that is not flexible or moveable that it becomes a problem. We can improve how scar tissue moves with your body even after it has developed. But the longer the scar tissue has been around, the longer this process will take. That’s why we recommend you reach out to a therapist sooner rather than later to get this addressed.
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Above all else, we want you to know that there is a resolution for your pain. You don’t need to suffer. You don’t need to be reliant on pain killers. And you might not even need surgery after all!
Reach out to us so that we can help.
Not sure about us just yet? That’s ok. We know that it can be hard to know who to trust in the health care system and we never want you to feel rushed in to making a decision if you just aren’t ready.
Ready to start feeling better? Request to speak with one of our therapists to hear about what we can do to help!