Torn Deltoid


The muscle that contours the shoulder is known as the deltoid muscle. Three sets of fibers make up this common shoulder muscle. The name deltoid has been changed in the past years from deltoideus, but this name is rarely heard among doctors and medical professionals. A torn deltoid is not pleasant and can be a troubling ordeal to go through. This shoulder muscle assists with daily activities such as lifting, carrying, rotating and moving freely.


The clavicular fibers are situated at the anterior side of the third clavicle and is adjacent to the pectoralis major muscle. This muscle is more commonly referred to as the front delts. Other parts of the deltoid muscle include the lateral deltoid which are also known as side delts or middle delts. The spinal fibers are located at the posterior side of the deltoid and are known as rear delts. There is constant blood and nerve supply coming and going from the deltoid muscle. Each of these sections provide different functions for the deltoid. The front delts help flex the shoulder, the middle delts help rotate the shoulder and rear delts help extend the shoulder. Each of these muscle parts play a huge role and if one becomes torn, then it can limit a person’s shoulder use.

Causes Of A Torn Deltoid

There is usually not one single cause of a torn deltoid. Sometimes the overuse of the muscle is enough to cause a strain, sprain and a tear to occur in the deltoid. Some of the causes of a torn deltoid include:

  • Playing sportsTorn Deltoid
  • Motor-vehicle accident
  • Swimming
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Aging
  • Direct trauma
  • Overuse of the deltoid muscle
  • Dislocation or tear of rotator cuff
  • Weight lifting
  • Straining exercises
  • Swimming
  • Occupation
  • Fall


Depending on the severity of the torn deltoid, there are different symptoms to look out for. The more severe the tear, the worse the symptoms can appear. These symptoms can include:

  • Pain in shoulder
  • Swelling
  • Soreness
  • Numbness
  • Tightness
  • Reduced motion
  • Trouble moving arm or shoulder
  • Inability to move
  • Severe pain

How To Diagnose A Torn Deltoid

The most common cause of a torn deltoid is from a torn rotator cuff. Physical examinations are usually done before any other tests and this is to check the motion and strength of the shoulder. An orthopedic surgeon is the best type of doctor to review a possible tear of the deltoid muscle. Imaging tests and scans can help determine the severity of the torn deltoid. These tests can include:

  • X-ray
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
  • Computerized tomography scan (CT or CAT scan)

Torn Deltoid


Once the severity of the torn deltoid is determined by doctors, a treatment plan is set in place. This treatment plan can include resting, ice packs on the area, heat on the area and the use of over-the-counter pain relievers. Keeping the affected area elevation can be beneficial for the patient. Sometimes, doctors will offer a special sling to help stabilize the shoulder from excess movement. Surgery will be required if the torn deltoid muscle is accompanied or in junction with a torn rotator cuff. Surgery can help stabilize the shoulder joint and help patients regain strength of their body. Post-surgery patients need plenty of rest to get back into shape. Recovery can take two-six months depending on the case.


One of the best ways to avoid a tear in the deltoid muscle is proper exercise. It is important to stretch before working out to avoid further damage to the deltoid or any other muscle. Good deltoid exercises can include dumbbell presses, upright rows and military presses. Avoiding sports, especially contact sports, is a good way to decrease the risk of a torn deltoid.