Rotator Cuff Tear

What is a Torn Rotator Cuff?

  • The Rotator Cuff is a capsule with fused tendons which support the arm at the shoulder joint. A Torn Rotator Cuff can be classified as either a partial tear or a complete tear.
  • Partial Tear – This occurs when the tendon that protects the top of the shoulder is frayed or damaged.
  • Complete Tear – This occurs when the tear goes all the way through the tendon or pulls the tendon off the bone.


  •  Causes – There can be several different causes of rotator cuff tears
    • Falls – This is the most common cause of a rotator cuff tear
    • Car crash – Many car crashes lead to a rotator cuff tear because the shoulder area is lined up with the steering wheel
    • Pulled shoulder muscle
    • Hyper-rotation of arm – This occurs when the arm is rotated beyond its normal range of motion
    • Use of excessive weights
    • Martial arts
    • Overuse of shoulder
    • In general, rotator cuff tears can be caused by substantial injury to the shoulder or progressive degeneration or wear and tear of the tendon tissue surrounding the shoulder
  •  Signs and Symptoms of a Torn Rotator Cuff

    • Acute Rotator Cuff Tear
      • Symptoms can be a sudden sensation followed by severe pain shooting from the upper shoulder down the arm to the elbow
      • Decreased range of motion
      • Acute pain from bleeding and muscle spasm
      • Large tears may cause the inability to abduct the arm (raising a straight arm from the side of body out to the side and up to shoulder level) due to significant pain or insufficient muscle power
    • Chronic Rotator Cuff Tear
      • Pain is usually worse at night
      • Gradual weakness and decreased shoulder motion develops as the pain worsens
      • Decreased ability to abduct arm.

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  •  Treatment
    • Several Rotator Cuff Tears can be treated non-surgically. The goal would be to relieve pain and build strength through the use of anti-inflammatory medication, steroid injections and/or physical therapy.   Active individuals may find that surgery is a better option.  If pain and weakness is persistent, surgery is recommended.
      • Surgery Recovery May include
        • Pain relievers- Certain medications impact bleeding, so its important to listen follow Doctor’s instructions
        • Arm sling or immobilizer. The arm is secured by an arm sling or immobilizer to prevent inadvertent arm movement. Patients may wear the sling for 4 to 6 weeks following surgery.
        • Ice.  Instead of Ice which can cause skin burns, Try Artex SafeTherapy Knee wrap.  It freezes at 58°F so there will never be any risk of injuries that can come from ice.
        • Mild movements. Mild arm movements, such as hand to mouth movement, are generally allowed during the second to sixth week after surgery.
        • Physical Therapy.  This process begins with passive exercises and progresses to active ones.
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