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What is a rotator cuff tear?

The rotator cuff is comprised of four muscles that help maintain the stability of the shoulder joint by keeping the humerus firmly in place within the shoulder socket. It also facilitates arm movements, especially those involving reaching overhead and rotation of the arm. Many rotator cuff tears develop gradually over time due to the cumulative effect of repetitive motions and age-related degeneration.

Symptoms include:

  • Pain that is dull and throbbing, or intense and sharp, depending on severity of the tear.
  • Stiffness or restricted movement, especially with overhead or behind the back motions.
  • Unable to sleep or lie on affected shoulder due to pain.
  • Weakness and instability in affected shoulder/arm

There are two types of tears:

  • Full-thickness: Complete tearing of a tendon in two
  • Partial-thickness: Some of the tendon is still intact. Partial tears are further divided into whether less than or greater than 50% of the tendon is worn through

The majority of partial-thickness tears are treated conservatively with physical therapy that focuses on restoring the range of motion, strength, and function in the affected shoulder. In cases where conservative management fails, patients may elect to undergo an arthroscopic repair.These patients would then attend physical therapy for post-operative rehabilitation of their shoulder in order to return to their prior level of function.

Do you think you may have a rotator cuff tear? Contact any one of our 4 locations to schedule a physical evaluation.

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