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Rotator Cuff Injuries

The rotator cuff is a combination of four muscles that come together as tendons to form a covering around the head of the upper arm bone or humerus. The rotator cuff attaches the humerus to the shoulder blade and helps to lift and rotate the arm.

When one or more of the rotator cuff tendons tears, the tendon no longer fully attaches to the head of the humerus, causing instability. Most rotator cuff tears are caused by the normal wear and tear that goes along with aging. Other risk factors include repetitive lifting or overhead activities.

A partial tear damages the soft tissue, but does not completely sever it. Complete tears split the soft tissue into two pieces. Acute tears occur with other shoulder injuries, such as a broken collarbone or dislocated shoulder.

The most common symptoms of a rotator cuff tear include pain at rest and at night, particularly if lying on the affected shoulder; pain lifting and lowering the arm; weakness when lifting or rotating the arm; or a crackling sensation when moving the shoulder in certain positions.

There are several treatment options for a rotator cuff tears, depending on age, activity level, general health, and the type of tear. In about half of patients, nonsurgical treatment (like physical therapy, pain management, and rest) relieves pain and improves function in the shoulder. After six months of continued pain, surgery may be required to reattach the tendon.

Previous Page Last Review Date: December 19, 2017
Rotator Cuff Injuries Team
Jonathan Hersch, MD, FAAOS

Jonathan Hersch, MD, FAAOS

Orthopaedic Surgery, Sports Medicine, Shoulder, Knee & Hip Arthroscopy
Boca Raton 33428