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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..

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.

Not All Tears are Created Equal

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.

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)

Magnetic Resonance Imaging



Tendon Attached

Tendon Torn

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


Yes.  In an article publiched by the American Academy for Orthopedic Surgeons, researchers compared outcomes of patients who had undergone arthroscopic rotator cuff repair with and without stem cell augmentation (taken from iliac crest).  At 10-year follow-up, 87% of the repairs in the MSC-treated group were intact compared to 44% of those in the control group. In both the sort- and long-term, patients who received stem cells healed faster and had fewer retears than patients who did not receive stem cells.  Click Here to read the article.

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