The rotator cuff is a group of tendons in the shoulder joint providing support and enabling a wider range of motion. Major injury to these tendons may result in a tear of these tendons and the condition is called rotator cuff tear. It is one of the most common causes of shoulder pain in middle aged adults and older individuals.
Rotator cuff tears result from pressure on the rotator cuff from part of the shoulder blade (scapula) as the arm is lifted. It may occur with repeated use of the arm for overhead activities, while playing sports or during motor accidents.
Rotator cuff tears cause severe pain, weakness of the arm, and a crackling sensation on moving the shoulder in certain positions. There may be stiffness, swelling, loss of movements, and tenderness in the front of the shoulder.
Your surgeon diagnoses a rotator cuff tear based on the physical examination, X-rays, and imaging studies, such as MRI. Rotator cuff tears are best viewed on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Conservative Treatment Options
- Shoulder sling
- Pain medication injection consisting of a steroid (cortisone) and a local anesthetic in the subacromial space of the affected shoulder to help decrease inflammation and pain
- Specific exercises
Rotator cuff repair may be performed by open surgery or an arthroscopic procedure. In an arthroscopy procedure, space for the rotator cuff tendons will be increased and the cuff tear is repaired using suture anchors. These anchor sutures help in attaching the tendons to the shoulder bone. Following the surgery, you may be advised to practice motion and strengthening exercises.