The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that form a tendon complex that attaches on the outer side of the shoulder. This tendon complex can become torn either through an acute traumatic event, such as a fall on an outstretched arm, or from long term overuse. Symptoms can include pain when reaching and lifting, pain at night, restriction of motion, and weakness.
Diagnosis is based on a patient’s history, symptoms and careful physical examination provided by your physician. Specific physical examination maneuvers allow for accurate diagnosis and help to eliminate other sources of shoulder pain and weakness. X-rays are obtained to evaluate for associated bone spurs, calcific deposits, or osteoarthritis. An MRI can confirm a suspected rotator cuff tear.
While an attempt at conservative care, including physical therapy is reasonable. Surgery may be considered to repair the torn tendon if a patient remains symptomatic. Post operatively, diligent physical therapy and activity restrictions are advised. Eventual return to full functional activities and sports is always the goal after rotator cuff surgery.