Published: Sept. 26, 2011
Updated: Mar. 20, 2012
The rotator cuff is made up of four muscles (subscapularis, supraspinatus, infraspinatus, and teres minor) that help move and stabilize the shoulder joint. These muscles and their tendons connect your upper arm bone (humerus) with your shoulder blade (scapula).
When any one these muscles or tendons tears this is considered a rotator cuff tear. Torn rotator cuffs are common rotator cuff injures.
Torn rotator cuffs can occur from sudden jerking movements, falling on an outstretched hand, or lifting something that is too heavy. Tears can also be a result of other shoulder injuries, such as a dislocated shoulder or a fractured (broken) collarbone.
Rotator cuff tears are also wear-and-tear injuries, resulting from repetitive stress on the shoulder's tendons and muscles. Tendons degenerate from use over time, and are more common as we age. Therefore, individuals over 40 years of age are at risk for torn rotator cuffs.
Individuals who also overuse their shoulder muscles, like weightlifters, and those who do repetitive overhead activities, such as painters and carpenters, are also at risk.
Rotator cuff tears are characterized by:
A physical examination of the shoulder, with focus on its range of motion and assessment of arm strength, will allow your doctor to determin if you have a torn rotator cuff. Your doctor may also use x-ray or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to view the rotator cuff muscles and rule out underlying conditions such as arthritis, pinched nerves, or fracture.
If you have a torn rotator cuff, ignore the pain, and keep using your injured shoulder, you may cause further injury to yourself.
Your Duke Orthopaedics specialist will consider many factors including your general health, age, activity level, and the type of tear you have when tailoring your rotator cuff tear treatment.
Typically, nonsurgical treatment options are offered before considering surgical treatment options. Torn rotator cuff treatment options can relieve pain and improve function in the shoulder:
Though less invasive treatments can help improve shoulder function, shoulder strength does not usually improve without rotator cuff tear surgery.
At Duke, we typically offer rotator cuff tear surgery as an arthroscopic surgery where surgeons inspect and reattach torn tendons in the shoulder's rotator cuff.
Duke Orthopaedics offers rotator cuff treatments at locations convenient to Raleigh, Durham, Cary, and Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Watch an educational video about rotator cuff tears and treatment options, including rotator cuff tear surgery, for this condition.
At Duke Orthopaedics, our doctors often treat torn rotator cuffs with arthroscoptic rotator cuff repair surgery. The following video demonstrates this procedure.