Rotator Cuff Tear

What is a rotator cuff tear?

The Rotator cuff is the group of tendons in the shoulder joint that provides support and enables a wide range of motion of the shoulder. Major injuries to these tendons may result in tearing of these tendons, called as rotator cuff tears. It is one of the most common causes of shoulder pain in middle-aged adults and older individuals.

Causes of rotator cuff tears

Rotator cuff tears result from pressure on the rotator cuff from part of the shoulder blade (scapula) as the arm is lifted. It may occur with the repeated use of the arm for overhead activities, while playing sports or during motor accidents.

Symptoms of rotator cuff tears

A rotator cuff tear causes severe pain, weakness of the arm, and crackling sensation on moving the shoulder in certain positions. There may be stiffness, swelling, loss of movements, and tenderness in the front of the shoulder.

Diagnosis of rotator cuff tears

Your surgeon diagnoses rotator cuff tears based on the physical examination, X-rays and imaging studies, such as MRI. A rotator cuff tear is best viewed on magnetic resonance imaging.

Treatment of rotator cuff tears

Conservative treatment options

  • Rest
  • Shoulder sling
  • Pain medication
  • Injection of a steroid (cortisone) and a local anaesthetic in the subacromial space of the affected shoulder to help decrease the inflammation and pain
  • Certain exercises


Rotator cuff repair may be performed by open surgery or arthroscopic procedure. In the arthroscopic procedure, space for rotator cuff tendons will be increased and the cuff tear is repaired using suture anchors. These anchor sutures help in attaching the tendons to the shoulder bone. Following the surgery, you may be advised to practice motion and strengthening exercises.