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Rupture of the Supraspinatus Tendon


Symptoms Checklist:

  • Your pain developed suddenly
  • It is very sore
  • Only selected arm movements are extremely painful
  • You are unable to hold your outstretched arm to the side at 90 degrees

Rupture of the Supraspinatus Tendon

Tendon attaches muscle to bone and is the focus for the “pull” of the muscle.  When you damage it (see Tendinitis) the muscle pulls part of the tendon away from the bone and the attachment point (or focus) becomes frayed and sore.  In the case of a rupture the tendon becomes completely detached from the bone and you can no longer move the joint. While the tendons themselves are enormously strong (half the tensile strength of steel), the attachment to the bone is usually weaker and first to give.  Tendinitis is very common at the shoulder. This tendon is involved in all shoulder movements.  It prevents downward drag on the arm as in carrying.

Physical Therapy and Supraspinatus Tendon Rupture

When a tendon ruptures or severs completely it needs to be immobilised so that it can re-attach itself to the bone.  While this is happening the tendon and muscles shorten.  As the tendon tries to repair itself, it gets thicker and tighter.  The damaged fibres succeed in re-attaching themselves to the bone by forming scar tissue.  Unlike fractures, where the repair is better than the original, the quality of repair for tendons is poor.  This is because of the formation of that scar tissue, which sticks to the surrounding tissues and causes adhesions.  These adhesions and scar tissue damage the surrounding musculature and restrict circulation – bad for the healing process.  The result is that the tendon injury is more likely to recur as a result of the poor quality of the mend.  The Physical Therapist will work to correctly align the damaged fibres, break down the scar tissue, gently stretch the shortened tendons and muscles, prevent the formation of adhesions, increase circulation and improve the quality of repair.  Because the blood supply to tendons is poor, the speed of recovery is also slow. Treatment not only speeds repair and recovery, but can dramatically improve the quality of repair.  For people who are young, fit and actively involved in sport, surgery is nowadays the preferred method of repair.  After surgery, they too work closely with a Physical Therapist following a carefully planned and monitored exercise rehabilitation course. 

Tags: Neck & Shoulder, Shoulder, Tendons, rupture -, Dislocation, Neck / Shoulder problems, Sports Injuries, Tendinitis

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