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What is a Rotator Cuff Tear? How Do You Fix It?

What is a Rotator Cuff Tear? How Do You Fix It?

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), every year almost 2 million people in the United States visit their doctors because of a rotator cuff problem.

The shoulder is a ball and socket joint. A group of four tendons and muscles called the rotator cuff maintain stability within this joint. With the shoulder’s wide range of motion, the rotator cuff also helps lift and rotate your arm.

What is a rotator cuff tear?

A rotator cuff tear is a tear in this group of tendons and muscles. These tears can occur suddenly or gradually. When the rotator cuff is torn, shoulder pain, weakness and altered range of motion can result.

Rotator cuff tears are classified into two categories – partial or complete. A partial tear damages the tendon, but does not completely sever it. A complete tear separates all of the tendon from the bone.

How do you fix it?

The goal of any treatment is to reduce pain and restore function. Partial tears can usually be treated with conservative methods. These include rest, ice therapy, anti-inflammatory medication, steroidal injections, or physical therapy.

Complete tears or chronic issues usually require surgery. Typically, an arthroscopic procedure performed on an outpatient basis is used to repair a rotator cuff tear. Surgery is indicated when conservative treatments have failed to relieve pain and restore function of the shoulder.

Many people can recover from a rotator cuff tear with conservative treatment methods. The treatment plan for this type of injury will vary depending on the patient’s specific circumstances. Age, activity level, overall health, and the type of tear are all considered in determining the best treatment for the best outcome.

About the Author
Anup Shah, MD, FAAOS
Anup Shah, MD

Dr. Anup Shah is a board-certified, fellowship-trained Sports Medicine Orthopedic surgeon specializing in Knee and Shoulder Surgery in Phoenix, Arizona at Banner Health. Dr. Shah uses a patient-centric and an evidence-based approach to help his patients achieve their desired goals.

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