Rotator Cuff Specialist

Rotator Cuff Injury Q & A

What is a rotator cuff tear?

The rotator cuff is a group of four tendons deep in your shoulder. A normally functioning rotator cuff is critical for normal, pain-free shoulder motion. A rotator cuff tear is when your rotator cuff rips or pulls off the bone at the top of your arm. Some rotator cuff tears can lead to poor shoulder function and shoulder pain. When this happens, seeing a rotator cuff specialist is important for recovery.

What are symptoms of a rotator cuff tear?

Not all rotator cuff tears cause symptoms. If they develop slowly with age, they can often result in no symptoms at all. In fact, most people with these types of rotator cuff tears may not even know they have them.

However, in some of these “degenerative” tears—and in most rotator cuff tears that occur following an injury—symptoms will develop. The common symptoms in these tears are pain, occasionally a clicking or catching sensation with shoulder motion, and often weakness. The pain is characteristically on the side of your shoulder, particularly while sleeping.

How do rotator cuff tears occur?

Rotator cuff tears can occur from tendon degeneration as we age, or from trauma. Surprisingly, degenerative rotator cuff tears are common as we age. Fortunately, symptoms do not always exist with this type of tear. Traumatic rotator cuff tears can occur in several ways. Some of the more common ones are a fall onto your elbow or hand, or stumbling while holding onto something, pushing overhead, or pushing out in front of you.

How are rotator cuff tears diagnosed?

The rotator cuff specialists at Town Center Orthopaedics can frequently diagnose rotator cuff tears after an examination in the office. In some cases of older or larger tears, an X-ray can be used. If an MRI of your shoulder is needed, our rotator cuff injury specialists will help make arrangements for you to get an MRI as efficiently as possible.

What is the treatment for rotator cuff tears?

Different treatments are appropriate depending on the type of tear you have, how much it affects you, and your needs and goals. Depending on the tear type and your symptoms, nonoperative treatment (including medications and physical therapy) may be all that is needed. If so, our excellent physical therapists will help you feel better.

In other cases, your shoulder may require surgery. Depending on the extent of the tear, a repair of your tendon may be possible. This type of surgery can be performed arthroscopically on an outpatient basis. More extensive tears may require a particular type of shoulder replacement.

No matter the surgery needed, our skilled sports medicine shoulder surgeons are proficient in the latest and most effective techniques. You will need physical therapy after surgery, so our surgeons and physical therapists will work together to get you and your shoulder feeling great again.

If you think you have a rotator cuff tear, don’t wait to get the help you need. To schedule your examination with a rotator cuff specialist, call Town Center Orthopaedics any time at (703) 435-6604, or book online today.

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