Testing for a Tear in Your Rotator Cuff

Shoulder pain is an issue that many people may deal with at some point in their life. There are a variety of different reasons why someone may suffer from shoulder pain. One of the main reasons why you might experience pain in your shoulder is if you have a tear in your rotator cuff. The rotator cuff is a group of muscles that surround the shoulder joint and help keep it firmly in place. If you are having issues with your shoulder and think it may be related to the a tear in your rotator cuff, then here are some ways of how to test for rotator cuff tear.

Resistance Tests

If there is damage to the rotator cuff, then you will notice weakness and pain when there is resistance applied. You can simply raise your arm out in front of you and have someone apply resistance to the top of your hand. If you are unable to raise your arm against slight resistance or if there is significant pain when you try to do so, then you may have an issue with your rotator cuff.

Range of Motion

If you have a tear in your rotator cuff, then the range of motion in your shoulder will be compromised. There are a variety of different ways a physician may test the range of motion in your shoulder. Typically, your physician will attempt to move your arm in a variety of different directions to see how much range your shoulder has in either direction. If your range of motion is limited and there is a significant amount of pain, then there may be a tear in the rotator cuff.

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The Empty Can Test

The empty can test is one of the simplest tests you can do yourself to get a better idea if there may be a tear in your rotator cuff. This test is performed by raising your arm to your side so that it is parallel to the ground, you then bend your arm at an angle of 45 degrees and try to bend your arm forward as if you were emptying a can. This test is best performed by having a friend apply some resistance to your arm as you attempt to “pour.” If you are unable to empty the can and there is pain associated with the movement, then there could be a tear in the rotator cuff.

Imaging Tests

In order to get the most accurate diagnosis of your shoulder pain, a physician may order Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of your shoulder. This test allows the physician to see the muscles, tendons and ligaments in your shoulder with detail. If there is indeed a tear in the rotator cuff, then an MRI will reveal the tear and where it is located. However, MRI’s are very costly and should only be done if necessary. In most cases, if you have insurance, some or all these costs will be covered.