What is a Rotator Cuff Tear?
The rotator cuff is the name of a group of four tendons in your shoulder that allows different types of movement to occur, including elevation and rotation. A tear in any of those tendons is called a rotator cuff tear.
When a rotator cuff tendon tears, it can no longer function properly and often can cause pain and weakness. Therefore, you may experience a reduction in your activity levels and functional abilities.
What causes a Rotator Cuff Tear?
Any of the tendons can tear, either due to acute injury/trauma i.e. after a fall, during weightlifting, or from a sudden shoulder pull. It can more commonly occur due to ‘wear and tear’, as part of the aging process.
How is a Rotator Cuff Tear diagnosed?
A rotator cuff tear can be initially considered following a clinical examination with a specialist. Imaging studies, like ultrasound scan and MRI scan, are used to verify and investigate the size of a rotator cuff tear.
Treatment and recovery
Initially, depending on the severity of the injury, symptoms can be managed well with rest from sports, anti-inflammatory and pain-killing medications, and 6-12 weeks of targeted physiotherapy.
However, most cases require an arthroscopic repair of the torn rotator cuff tendons. During surgery sutures (stitches) passed through the tendon and very small anchors are used to repair the torn tendon back into the bone. Usually the primary reason for this surgery is pain relief. Repairing the tendon may also increase strength and active range of movement at the shoulder joint.
You may go home on the day of surgery or require an overnight stay on the ward. You will then follow a rehabilitation program supervised by specialist physiotherapists.