A new study has revealed that low oestrogen or testosterone levels in men and women, increase the risk of rotator cuff tears. The observational study was carried out by researchers at the University of Utah, and its results have been published within The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery.
Here, we will look at what the study found and what you need to know about tears of the rotator cuff.
Hormone levels and a shoulder tendon tear
The observational study looked at the impact of low oestrogen and testosterone levels on the rotator cuff. It revealed that women with low oestrogen are 48% more likely to experience a rotator cuff tear. Men with low testosterone levels were found to be 89% more likely to experience a tear.
Having lower oestrogen and testosterone levels has long been known to contribute towards weaker bones. When the bones weaken, tendon-bone attachments, such as the rotator cuff, become compromised.
While the study didn’t reveal the reason low oestrogen and testosterone levels contribute towards rotator cuff tears, theories do exist. For example, testosterone builds up muscle. As the muscle builds, so too does the surrounding tendon. If levels of testosterone are low, the tendons don’t grow in line with the muscle. This in turn causes a weakened attachment.
The study also suggested that low levels of sex hormones can impact the body’s ability to heal.
What is a rotator cuff tear?
Rotator cuff tears are common, affecting approximately 30% of the UK population by the age of 70. They are especially popular in older patients aged over 60, and they range in severity.
The rotator cuff is surrounded by tendons helping to keep the joint in place. Any of them can become torn due to overuse, or trauma. When a tear occurs, it typically happens in the supraspinatus tendon. The severity of the tear will vary, and they are categorised as full-thickness or partial tears.
A full-thickness tear is diagnosed when the tendon becomes completely detached from the bone. A partial tear damages the tendon but doesn’t sever it from the bone.
Treating a shoulder tendon tear
There are several treatment options available for a rotator cuff tear. First, you will need to be assessed by a shoulder specialist to determine how severe the tear is. This will help to identify the best course of treatment to suit you.
Most patients find that a non-surgical approach is enough to fix the problem. This includes rest, physical therapy, anti-inflammatory pain medication, and steroid injections. However, in severe tears, surgery may be the only option. This typically involves re-attaching the tendon to the upper arm bone.
To find out which treatment option is right for you, book a consultation with one of our friendly and experienced shoulder specialists today.