Rotator Cuff Tears

What is a Rotator Cuff Tear?

Rotator Cuff Tears are a common cause of shoulder pain. The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons in the shoulder joint that help the shoulder to move. A Rotator Cuff Tear is a tear or strain in these muscles or tendons. Rotator Cuff Tears can happen quickly, or develop gradually over time.

What causes Rotator Cuff Tears?

Rotator cuff tears can be caused by a sudden injury to the shoulder or a gradual deterioration of the tendon tissue. Repetitive overhead movements and heavy lifting may irritate or damage the tendon.

The following things are known to increase your risk of having a rotator cuff injury:
  • Age. Rotator cuff tears are most common in people over 40.
  • Sports. Sports which involve repetitive arm motions, such as tennis, baseball and archery.
  • Physical labour. Jobs such as carpentry or house painting which involve repetitive overhead arm motions can damage the rotator cuff

Rotator Cuff Tear Treatment

Physical therapy and medication are used to treat Rotator Cuff Tears in the first instance. Up to 80% of people who experience rotator cuff tears find that these non-surgical treatments are able to relieve pain and improve movement and function in the shoulder. If physical therapy and medication does not work, your doctor may suggest a cortisone injection.

Surgery for Rotator Cuff Tears

If non-surgical methods do not work, your doctor may recommend surgery. Depending on your individual situation, surgery may be a good option for you if:
  • Your symptoms have lasted longer than 6 months
  • You have a large tear (more than 3 cm)
  • You have lost strength and functionality in your shoulder
  • Your tear was caused by a recent, acute injury.

What happens in surgery?

  • Shoulder Arthroscopy: which involves keyhole surgery to remove damaged cartilage and repair tendons
  • Shoulder Replacement Surgery: in which the damaged part of the shoulder is removed and replaced with artificial components.