Rotator Cuff Tear

Rotator Cuff Tear

Degenerative changes caused by chronic inflammation (tendonitis) and/or aging may lead to a rotator cuff tear. A traumatic injury (fall or accident) may also cause a torn rotator cuff tendon. A tendon may be partially torn or completely torn in two.

Causes of Rotator Cuff Tear

Lifting something heavy (especially above shoulder level) may overload a tendon and cause it to tear. A torn rotator cuff may also result from a forceful movement of the arm, such as throwing a ball, starting a lawnmower. If there is advanced degeneration of a tendon, it may tear during everyday activity.

If rotator cuff tendonitis (inflammation of rotator cuff tendon) is not treated early and becomes chronic, the tendons become progressively weaker. It takes less force to rupture a weakened tendon.

Aging causes degenerative changes in the tendons, leaving them more susceptible to tearing. Rotator cuff tears are uncommon in people under the age of forty. A torn rotator cuff in a young person is usually the result of a fall or accident.

Symptoms of Rotator Cuff Tear

If caused by a fall or accident, acute pain.
Pain and decreased strength (especially when reaching overhead).
With a large or complete tear may, one may be unable to raise arm overhead.
Pain at night, pain sleeping on side.

Treatment of Rotator Cuff Tear

When a healthy rotator cuff tears as a result of a traumatic injury (fall or accident), surgery is more likely to be performed than when a rotator cuff tears as a result of chronic degeneration. Surgery is more likely to be successful when the cuff is healthy.

Small tears usually heal with conservative treatment. Partial tears often get larger. Large or complete tears often do not heal, however, surgery is not always necessary. Many older people have tears in their rotator cuff yet symptoms often resolve with conservative treatment. Strengthening the rotator cuff muscles plays a major role in preserving function of the shoulder.

See Treatment of Rotator Cuff Injuries.