Rotator Cuff Tears and Repairs2019-03-18T10:54:25-04:00

Rotator Cuff Tears and Repairs


What is a Rotator Cuff Injury?

The rotator cuff is a collection of four tendons and muscles that gather around the shoulder joint at the top of the upper arm bone. As the tendons come together, they form a “cuff” that holds your arm in place and allows it to move in multiple directions. Most rotator cuff tears affect those over 50 years of age. Tears occur due to a combination of wear and degeneration. Occasionally a traumatic tear can happen with injury. More rarely, certain tears can be seen in athletes such as pitchers.

Symptoms of Rotator Cuff Tear

The symptoms of a rotator cuff tear can either develop acutely after an injury or progress gradually, like most overuse injuries. Some symptoms of a rotator cuff tear include:

  • Weakness and tenderness in the shoulder.
  • Popping or crackling sounds when moving the shoulder.
  • Pain at rest and while sleeping on the shoulder.
  • Difficulty moving the shoulder, especially above your head.
  • Notable decrease in ability to use shoulder effectively due either to pain or injury-related range-of-motion limitations.

Treatment of Rotator Cuff Tear

At Sideline Orthopedics, your health is our top priority. Accurately diagnosing a rotator cuff injury, such as a tear, requires a physical examination as well as image-based diagnostics. Our team will order an X-ray and an MRI when needed to determine the severity of the injury. Based on your physical exam, duration of symptoms, image results and degree of pain, our team will work with you to determine the optimum treatment plan to restore function to your shoulder and minimize your pain.

Partial Rotator Cuff Treatment

The nonsurgical treatment for a partial rotator cuff tear includes:

  • NSAIDs
  • Physical therapy
  • Cortisone injection
  • Home exercises

Full thickness rotator cuff tears may require surgical repair to restore function and decrease pain. Some very large tears that are chronic may not be repairable and are better off being treated with therapy. Some of these tears may be treated with a partial repair of superior capsular reconstruction, if therapy does not help.

A surgical option called arthroscopy is a procedure in which a camera is inserted into the shoulder to determine the severity of the tear and how many tendons are involved. Our team can then surgically repair the tendons arthroscopically.


Nonoperative treatment consists of 2-6 weeks of physical therapy, progressing range of motion, strength and function.

Rotator Cuff Repair

You will be in a sling after your repair. An average size repair starts physical therapy 2 weeks after surgery while a large tear will start at 6 weeks. The sling is worn for six weeks. Therapy guides your range of motion and exercise while protecting the repair. It takes 12-16 weeks to completely heal the tendon to the bone. After this, you are still weak and a little stiff. Weeks 12-18 focus on strength and function. Most patients are functioning well by 4-5 months, but improve until 1 year post-op.

Our team has performed nearly one thousand arthroscopic shoulder procedures and would love to share our experience with you.

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