Rotator cuff tears
The rotator cuff tendon may tear due to abrasion caused by a bone spur on the front corner of the shoulder blade (acromion) or from an acute injury resulting in a painful, weak shoulder.
Symptoms of Rotator cuff tears
Pain is often felt in the upper arm or over the cape of the shoulder. The shoulder is often particularly painful at night and this may prevent laying or sleeping comfortably on the affected side. Certain movements such as reaching up to a high shelf or putting the affected arm in the sleeve of a garment are painful. The shoulder may feel weak for any task that involves raising the arm above chest height.
Treatment of Rotator cuff tears
Pain killers and anti-inflammatory medication may help reduce pain. Physiotherapy may help improve shoulder strength and reduce the pain and weakness. Cortisone (steroid) injections help reduce inflammation and control the pain.
When is surgery required for a rotator cuff tear?
Tears of the rotator cuff may be through part of the tendon thickness (partial thickness tears) or through the entire thickness of the tendon (full thickness tears). Surgery is required if the tear is full thickness, for instance following an acute injury or when pain and weakness are not improved with physiotherapy. This may be undertaken arthroscopically or by an open technique.
Some tears are too large or retracted to repair and then an arthroscopic debridement may be performed in which the torn margin of the tendon is trimmed in order to help relieve the pain.