Rotator Cuff

About Rotator Cuff

A rotator cuff tear is a common cause of pain and disability among adults. Each year, almost 2 million people in the United States visit their doctors because of a rotator cuff problem.

A torn rotator cuff will weaken your shoulder. This means that many daily activities, like combing your hair or getting dressed, may become painful and difficult to do.

Rotator cuff tears are very common, especially as we all get older. They frequently cause pain over the upper arm that is made worse by overhead activities, reaching behind your back and lifting. They often ache at night and people find that they are unable to lie on the injured shoulder. They also cause weakness.

Rotator cuff tears most frequently occur with general wear and tear, and most people usually don't remember injuring their shoulder. These "degenerative tears", if not associated with arm weakness, may be successfully treated without surgery. This involves avoiding overhead activities, regular simple pain relief and gentle physiotherapy. Anti-inflammatory steroid injections can be very helpful in these situations to help manage pain and discomfort. When symptoms fail to improve despite these measures, surgical repair of the tear is indicated.

The less common group of rotator cuff tears occur following an injury, and are called "traumatic tears". People usually remember the exact incident, and often have significant weakness after the injury. Early surgical repair is often indicated.

Different Types of Tears

Partial Tear: This type of tear is also called an incomplete tear. It damages the tendon, but does not completely sever it.
Full-thickness Tear: This type of tear is also called a complete tear. It separates all of the tendon from the bone. With a full-thickness tear, there is basically a hole in the tendon.


The most common symptoms of a rotator cuff tear include:

1. Pain at rest and at night, particularly if lying on the affected shoulder

2. Pain when lifting and lowering your arm or with specific movements

3. Weakness when lifting or rotating your arm

4. Crepitus or crackling sensation when moving your shoulder in certain positions