The deltoid muscle is a triangular muscle that covers the front and top of your shoulder joint. When this muscle rips due to sudden strain or injury, it is called a deltoid muscle tear.
Older people with muscle weakness are more likely to experience deltoid muscle injuries. It typically occurs in people with rotator cuff injury. Repeated steroid injections for rotator cuff problems can weaken the shoulder muscles and increase the risk of deltoid muscle tears.
The deltoid muscle can also tear due to repetitive motions, sudden injury, or a fall during sports, chores, or work. Heavy lifting can also result in a torn deltoid muscle. Baseball, tennis, and weightlifting athletes are at a higher risk of a deltoid muscle tear due to sudden strain.
Deltoid muscle tear symptoms
A deltoid muscle tear can be partial or severe. Partial deltoid tears cause bruising and swelling. Severe tears can cause deformities in the upper arm and shoulder muscles, along with bruising and swelling. With a severe deltoid tear, you may not be able to move or lift your arm properly.
Deltoid muscle tear diagnosis
Your doctor will perform a physical exam to check for symptoms. They’ll also ask you about any injuries you may have had. Sudden muscle pain at the front and top of your shoulder after an injury means you probably had a deltoid muscle tear.
Your doctor will check for tenderness, swelling, bruising, or strange bumps. All of these are signs of a deltoid muscle tear. Other signs include pain when you move or lift your arms sideways or move it from the side to the front.
You may have to get an X-ray or MRI. These tests can help your doctor identify abnormalities in the deltoid muscle, bones, and connective tissue in your shoulder.
Deltoid muscle tear treatment
If you have severe symptoms of a deltoid muscle tear, you may require surgery. You’ll have to visit an orthopedic surgeon to get the deltoid muscle tear treated.
The surgery is done under anesthesia. The surgeon will stitch the torn muscle. After the surgery, your shoulder will be immobilized in a sling. Starting a week after the surgery, you’ll have to do some simple exercises to strengthen your deltoid muscle.
Deltoid muscle tear recovery time
To relieve pain and keep your deltoid muscle healthy after surgery. A physical therapist will teach you movements to relieve pain and strengthen your muscle. This will help prevent further injury and allow you to resume your daily activities soon.
After surgery, you’ll continue to heal for a few weeks. One week after the surgery, your physical therapist will show you some exercises. They will help you improve flexibility, regain deltoid muscle strength, and repair your shoulder. These exercises will include shoulder elevation and pendulum exercises.
Three weeks after surgery, you can perform active shoulder range of motion exercises under the guidance of your physical therapist. This involves rotating and stretching your arms. Over the next few weeks, these exercises will strengthen and stabilize your deltoid muscle and shoulder joint.
All patients have different recovery times based on the severity of their deltoid muscle tear. However, you should be able to return to your daily routine without any pain within 4 to 6 months after surgery.
According to a case study, a patient had a deltoid muscle tear due to weightlifting. After surgery, their shoulder healed and returned to normal within 6 months through physical therapy. Within 2 years, the patient even resumed weightlifting without any pain.
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Aftercare and prevention of further injury
You may have to continue physical therapy for several months before your shoulder is completely healed. Regular exercise can help you heal faster and prevent further injuries.
The physical therapist will teach you exercises such as forward flexion or bending the arm forward. They will also make you rotate your arm internally and externally. Following this, you may have to do shoulder abduction strengthening. This involves raising your arms to the side and rotating your wrists. You’ll also have to continue the range of motion and forward flexion exercises.
You can ask your physical therapist to help you with an exercise routine. You may have to do stretching, resistance exercises, and exercise conditioning to maintain muscle strength and shoulder movement.
A customized exercise plan can help you recover quickly and allow you to resume your daily life without any pain in your deltoid muscle.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery: "Traumatic rupture of the deltoid muscle during a pull-up: a case report."
Melbourne Arm Clinic: "Deltoid Pain."
NYU Langone Health: "Recovery & Support for Shoulder Sprains, Strains & Tears," "Types of Shoulder Sprains, Strains & Tears."
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