Rotator Cuff Injury
(Rotator Cuff Tear; Impingement Syndrome)
by Mary Calvagna, MS
Rotator cuff injury may include tendinitis, strain, or tear of the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff is made up of muscles and 4 separate tendons that fuse together to surround the shoulder joint.
Causes of a rotator cuff injury include:
Risk Factors TOP
Rotator cuff injury is more common in people 40 years and older. Other factors that increase your chance of a rotator cuff injury include:
Rotator cuff injury may cause:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. The doctor will carefully examine your shoulder. You will be asked to move your shoulder in several directions.
Tests may include:
The treatment will depend on the extent of your injury, level of pain, and amount of immobility. The first step is usually a nonsurgical approach.
This involves surgery on the bony structures that impinge the rotator cuff. Surgery can be arthroscopic or open.
A small instrument is inserted into the shoulder and used to remove bone spurs or degenerated portions of the rotator cuff tendons. Lesser tears can be repaired during arthroscopy as well.
Mini-Open Repair with Arthroscopy
This combines arthroscopy with an incision in the shoulder joint. Through the incision, the doctor can suture larger tears in the tendons or muscles.
This is used to repair the injured tendon or muscle in more severe cases. A tissue transfer or a tendon graft can be done during surgery if the tear is too large to be closed together. In the most severe cases, a joint replacement may be necessary.
Depending on the extent of your injury, full recovery can take anywhere from two to six months, and sometimes longer.
To help reduce your chance a rotator cuff injury:
The American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
The University of British Columbia Department of Orthopaedics
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Rotator cuff tear. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
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Updated July 13, 2014. Accessed September 28, 2014.
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Last reviewed August 2014 by John C. Keel, MD
Last Updated: 10/31/2012
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