Rotator Cuff Specialist

Rotator Cuff Q & A

What is a rotator cuff tear?

The rotator cuff is a group of four tendons deep in your shoulder. A normally functioning rotator cuff is critical for normal, pain-free shoulder motion. A rotator cuff tear describes when your rotator cuff rips or pulls off the bone at the top of your arm. Some rotator cuff tears can lead to poor shoulder function and shoulder pain.

What are the symptoms of symptomatic rotator cuff tears?

Not all rotator cuff tears cause symptoms. If they develop slowly with age, they can often result in no symptoms at all. In fact, most people with these types of rotator cuff tears may not even know that they have one. However, in some of these “degenerative” tears and in most rotator cuff tears that occur following an injury, symptoms will develop. The common symptoms in these tears are pain, occasionally a clicking or catching sensation with shoulder motion, and, not uncommonly, weakness. The pain is characteristically on the side of your shoulder, particularly while sleeping.

How do rotator cuff tears occur?

Rotator cuff tears can occur from tendon degeneration as we age or from trauma. Surprisingly, degenerative rotator cuff tears are common as we age. Fortunately, symptoms do not always exist with this type of tear. Traumatic rotator cuff tears can occur from several mechanisms. Some of the more common ones are a fall onto your elbow or hand, stumbling while holding onto something, or pushing overhead or in front of you.

How rotator cuff tears diagnosed?

The sports medicine doctors at Town Center Orthopaedic Associates can frequently diagnose rotator cuff tears after an examination in the office. In some older or larger tears, an X-Ray can be diagnostic. An MRI of your shoulder is sometimes needed. If so, our staff will help make arrangements for you to get an MRI as efficiently as possible.

How are rotator cuff tears treated?

Different treatments are appropriate depending on the type of tear you have, how much it affects you, and your needs and goals. Depending on the tear type and your symptoms, nonoperative treatment, including medications and physical therapy, may be all that is needed. If so, our excellent physical therapists will help get you feeling better in no time. In other cases, your shoulder may require surgery. Depending on the extent of the tear, a repair of your tendon may be possible. This type of surgery can be performed arthroscopically through tiny holes on an outpatient basis. More extensive tears may require a particular type of shoulder replacement.

No matter the surgery needed, our skilled sports medicine shoulder surgeons are proficient in the latest and most effective techniques. You will need physical therapy after surgery. So our surgeons and physical therapists will work together to get you and your shoulder feeling great again.

If you think you have a rotator cuff tear, please call or schedule online to make a convenient appointment.

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