Rotator Cuff Tear

Learn the anatomy

There are four muscles in the shoulder that start on the scapula (shoulder blade) and attach to the ball in your shoulder joint to help your shoulder move.  These muscles (red in the picture below) turn into tendons (the white part) as the muscles get closer to the bone.  The tendon is the part that actually connects to the bone.  The term rotator cuff is a general term referencing the specific area where the tendon connects to the bone.  Thus, the term rotator cuff tear means a tear in the tendon where it connects to the bone.

A rotator cuff tear is a general term referencing the rupture of one of the four rotator cuff tendons attaching to the shoulder (humeral head). 

Picture of Rotator Cuff Anatomy

A rotator cuff tear is one of the most common shoulder injuries seen by shoulder surgeons, and this injury can cause a significant amount of disablity and night pain.

How Do You Know if You Have a Tear?

  • ​Pain with activity

  • Night pain causing sleeping problems

  • Loss of shoulder motion

  • Weakness

  • Shoulder shrug when raising arm (see picture to the right)

Not All Tears are Created Equal!


  • Information

Be careful coming to conclusions when someone else told you they had their "rotator cuff fixed."  Tears can be big, small, and involve one or all of the tendons.  Each tear is treated differently, so it is important you know the kind of tear you have. The following are different types of tears that can be seen on a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).

Conservative Treatment Options

  • Physical Therapy

  • Chiropractic treatment

  • Acupuncture

  • Anti-Inflammatory Medications (i.e. Advil)

  • Anti-Inflammatory Injections (i.e. Cortisone)

  • Give Yourself More Time

  • Home Exercise Program

Surgical Treatment

If you have failed conservative treatment, your doctor may recommend arthroscopy surgery to fix the tear. During an arthroscopic rotator cuff repair, your surgeon uses a tiny camera, called an arthroscope, to examine or repair the damaged tissues about the shoulder joint. Please watch the following video for a demonstration of the procedure.


  • Information

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