Rotator Cuff Tear

The rotator cuff is the group of tendons and muscles that connect the upper arm to the shoulder blade and it provides stability and function to the shoulder joint, allowing it to rotate and lift.

Where the tendons run under the acromion joint they can be vulnerable to damage and a tear can greatly affect the strength and mobility of the shoulder. It can also result in a great deal of pain, even at night, affecting the patient’s ability to sleep.

A fall or trauma to the shoulder can result in a tear, but many people develop a rotator cuff tear as a result of wear and tear over time.

For more information on rotator cuff tears and possible treatment options, call +44 (0) 203 195 2442 to arrange a consultation with the London Shoulder Specialists.

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Partial vs full thickness tear

A partial tear is when the tendon is damaged but not completely torn, but if you have incurred a full thickness tear, the tendon is totally torn, usually where it is attached to the upper arm bone. If the tear is the result of an injury, you may have experienced a ‘snapping’ sensation, accompanied with sudden pain and weakness in the arm, at the time.

If the rotator cuff tear is the result of degradation, then you will begin to find normal activities difficult with weakness in the shoulder and arm and you may feel a crunching sensation. There may be pain at all times of the day, even when resting.

During your consultation with your London Shoulder Specialist, they will first assess the nature of your problem and then order scans to investigate the extent and exact positioning of the damage. This can include X-rays and MRI scans.

What are my treatment options for a rotator cuff tear?

Initial treatment may be non-surgical and will cover rest and gentle exercise to regain strength and mobility. Painkillers and anti-inflammatory medications are usually prescribed to deal with the pain and steroid injections might be used to reduce inflammation.

If the tear is a result of a trauma or if the problem is not greatly improved by non-surgical means, then surgery may be recommended. A complete rotator cuff tear will not heal and will require surgery. We offer arthroscopic repair of rotator cuff tears, stitching the torn tendon back onto the arm bone.

For more information on rotator cuff tears and their treatment, please get in touch with the London Shoulder Specialists to arrange a consultation.

Frequently Asked Questions on Rotator Cuff Tears

Avoid lifting weights above the head or out from the side of the body, as they can cause more stress to the shoulder joint. Other forms of exercise that entail overhead activity, such as swimming, should also be limited.

This depends on the cause. A sudden tear that results from trauma will cause immediate and intense shoulder pain and weakness in the arm. If it is a degenerative injury resulting from wear and tear, you may experience continuous mild pain that worsens progressively. Not everyone experiences pain, but some arm or shoulder weakness is usually present.

Warning signs of a rotator cuff tear include difficulty raising your arm, shoulder pain at night that affects your sleep, and shoulder or arm weakness.

The body does initiate a healing response after a tear to the rotator cuff, but a significant or complete tear will not heal fully, and the shoulder is usually left weak and unstable without surgical intervention. For a partial tear, many patients can improve shoulder function and decrease pain by strengthening the shoulder muscles that support the joint.

Your recovery will depend on several factors, including your age, level of fitness and lifestyle, as well as the size and severity of the tear. Your commitment to your rehab programme also determines how quickly you recover. Total recovery can take between six and 12 months.