Diagnosis

During the physical exam, your doctor will press on different parts of your shoulder and move your arm into different positions. He or she will also test the strength of the muscles around your shoulder and in your arms.

In some cases, he or she may recommend imaging tests, such as:

  • X-rays. Although a rotator cuff tear won't show up on an X-ray, this test can visualize bone spurs or other potential causes for your pain — such as arthritis.
  • Ultrasound. This type of test uses sound waves to produce images of structures within your body, particularly soft tissues such as muscles and tendons. It allows dynamic testing, assessing the structures of your shoulder as they move. It also allows a quick comparison between the affected shoulder and the healthy shoulder.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This technology uses radio waves and a strong magnet. The images obtained display all structures of the shoulder in great detail. The quality of the images depends greatly on the quality of the equipment used.
MRI of torn rotator cuff MRI of torn rotator cuff

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can reveal the existence and severity of rotator cuff tears.

March 17, 2015
References
  1. DeLee JC, et al. DeLee & Drez's Orthopaedic Sports Medicine: Principles and Practice. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2015. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Dec. 11, 2014.
  2. Frontera WR, et al. Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation: Musculoskeletal Disorders, Pain, and Rehabilitation. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2008. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Dec. 11, 2014.
  3. Rotator cuff tears. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00064. Accessed Dec. 11, 2014.
  4. Simons SM, et al. Rotator cuff tendinopathy. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Dec. 11, 2014.
  5. Firestein GS, et al. Kelley's Textbook of Rheumatology. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2013. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Dec. 11, 2014.
  6. Sanchez-Sotelo J (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Jan. 20, 2015.
  7. Canale ST, et al. Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics. 12th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2013. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Dec. 12, 2014.
  8. AskMayoExpert. Rotator cuff repair. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2014.
  9. Miller HL. Decision Support System. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Nov. 21, 2014.
  10. Hartzler RU, et al. Biomechanical effectiveness of different types of tendon transfers to the shoulder for external rotation. Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery. 2012;21:1370.
  11. Miller HL. Decision Support System. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Jan. 8, 2015.
  12. Pagnano MW (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Jan. 22, 2015.

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