Rotator Cuff Tears

The rotator cuff is a group of four tendons that wrap around the shoulder joint to assist in elevation and rotation of the shoulder.  They help keep the shoulder stable as well.  When one or more of these tendons are torn, patients often have difficulty lifting up the arm or performing tasks with the arm above shoulder level.  Many patients complain of pain at night that keeps them from sleeping.

It is often difficult to distinguish rotator cuff tendonitis, or inflammation of the tendons, from a rotator cuff tear.  Most patients with tendonitis will benefit from physical therapy directed at the rotator cuff and other shoulder muscles.  If a tear is present, surgery may be required to repair the torn tendon, which restores function to the shoulder and keeps the tear from becoming larger.

Based on a physical examination of the shoulder, the sports medicine specialist may recommend either physical therapy occasionally an MRI of the shoulder to look for a torn rotator cuff.  Surgery is usually done arthroscopically and requires the use of a sling and physical therapy to regain shoulder function.


Rotator Cuff Tears (AAOS)