Menopause and Rotator Cuff Tears

Medically Reviewed

Ladies: You may have a rotator cuff tear and not know it. So says a study out of Italy reporting that once a woman reaches menopause, she’s more prone than a premenopausal woman to a fullthickness rotator cuff tear in her shoulder with no pain or other symptoms.

A full-thickness tear means the rotator cuff tendon is torn in two, leaving a break in the tendon; it more commonly occurs with age as tissues wear down. The researchers linked the frequency of asymptomatic tears with a postmenopausal woman’s body mass index (the higher it is, the more likely a tear will occur) and blood levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol—the “good” kind (the lower the levels, the more likely a tear).

They found that women were three times more likely to tear their tendon after menopause then before. You can help prevent rotator cuff tears by regularly performing shoulder strengthening and stretching exercises, lifting heavy objects close to—not away from—your body and avoiding carrying a heavy handbag over your shoulder.

And if you have any ongoing shoulder pain or weakness, let your doctor know; if you keep using your shoulder despite symptoms, further damage may occur.

—Menopause, June 2013