What is a rotator cuff?

The term rotator cuff is used to describe a series of tendons (fibrous tissue that connects muscle to bone) and muscles that keep the shoulder joint together and give the arms motion. These tissues are what keep the top (head) of the upper arm bone in the shallow shoulder socket.

What causes a torn rotator cuff?

In most cases, a torn rotator cuff is the result of repetitive action in a sport or occupation, such as a baseball pitcher or someone who paints for a living. The tear can also be due to trauma, such as a car accident or a fall.

There are two types of tears: partial and total. With a partial tear, the tendon located on top of the shoulder becomes damaged or frayed. When a complete tear occurs, the tear runs through the whole tendon, or the tendon separates from the bone.

What are the symptoms of a torn rotator cuff?

Though patients don’t always experience symptoms with a tear, they can include:

  • A popping or clicking sound when moving the arm
  • An inability to lift objects normally
  • Difficulty raising the arm or laying on it
  • Pain when the arm is moved in certain directions
  • Weakness in the shoulder

Patients who experience any of these symptoms should consider seeing a physician for treatment. Failure to do so could result in a more serious issue later on, such as arthritis or frozen shoulder. Frozen shoulder is a condition in which scar tissue forms on tissue surrounding the joint, making it difficult to move.

How is a torn rotator cuff treated?

The first line of treatment for a torn rotator cuff is typically physical therapy (PT) coupled with over-the-counter pain medication and anti-inflammatories to regulate pain and inflammation while the shoulder gains strength. Exercises to prevent future injury are also taught to be done at home.

However, should PT fail to resolve the issue, surgery may be required to repair the tear or reattach the tendon to the bone. Removing small bits of bone or tendon caught in the joint or hindering the joint may also be necessary.

Rotator cuff surgery can be performed in an arthroscopic fashion. During the procedure, a camera is inserted into the shoulder and small skin portals are made to use small instruments to perform the repair.

Come to the Shoulder Specialists

At IGEA, our orthopaedic surgeon specializes in treating injuries, including rotator cuff tears, using advanced treatment options. These and other specialties are part of our practice’s full continuum of care for patients living with brain, spine, neuroendovascular and orthopaedic conditions.

For more information about the superior care and services we provide or to schedule an appointment with one of our experts, contact us today.