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The symptoms of a torn muscle in the shoulder

Updated February 21, 2019

Most muscle tears in the shoulder usually involve the rotator cuff, a group of muscles and tendons that keeps the arm in its socket. It's the one joint in the body that has the greatest range of motion, making it one of the most susceptible to injury. If someone were to suffer a torn muscle in the shoulder, it means that some portion of the fibres in the muscle have separated, causing a division that can prompt a number of symptoms.

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For most people, a torn muscle in the shoulder means pain. The intensity of this pain is influenced by the severity of the tear. It could be a small rip in the fibres, causing a more moderate amount of ache and tenderness, or a complete split of the muscle, prompting an intense and debilitating pain. For others, a muscle tear might only cause pain when certain movements are engaged, such as raising an arm over the head, reaching out to the front or placing weight on the affected shoulder.


A torn muscle in the shoulder can also cause a person to suffer swelling. This swelling is always isolated to the area of injury, as it is a result of the body's reaction to the tear. When someone endures a torn muscle, blood will instantaneously rush to the shoulder, causing it to become inflamed. This inflammation can sometimes be seen as a swelling above the point of muscle separation.


As the blood rushes to the muscle tear, some of it will escape through any of the blood vessels that have been damaged because of the injury. Having no place to go, the blood begins to pool and slowly form what is commonly known as a bruise. Much like the symptom of swelling, the bruise will form directly above the point of muscle separation.


It's also not uncommon for a torn muscle in the shoulder to prompt some level of weakness. Depending on the severity of the tear, this weakness can range from subtle to marked. If it's a rather small separation, a person can not even notice any impingement in strength. But with a more sizeable tear, it will typically bring on a noticeable weakness, especially when compared with the other shoulder and arm.


When someone suffers from a torn muscle in the shoulder, he can face a change in mobility, meaning that the range of motion may lessen or the use of the arm may become limited. To a great extent, this symptom will also be influenced by the severity of the injury, ranging from restricted movement all the way to total muscle failure.

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About the Author

Based in Minneapolis, Minn., Dana Severson has been writing marketing materials for small-to-mid-sized businesses since 2005. Prior to this, Severson worked as a manager of business development for a marketing company, developing targeted marketing campaigns for Big G, Betty Crocker and Pillsbury, among others.

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