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Rotator Cuff Tear

The rotator cuff is the group of tendons in the shoulder joint that provide support and enable wider range of motion. Major injury to these tendons may cause a rotator cuff tear, which is one of the most common causes of shoulder pain in middle-aged adults and older individuals. It may occur with repeated use of arm for over head activities, while playing sports or during motor vehicle accidents. A rotator cuff tear causes severe pain, weakness of the arm, and crackling sensation when moving the shoulder in certain positions. There may be stiffness, swelling, loss of movements, and tenderness in the front of the shoulder.

A rotator cuff tear is best viewed on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Symptomatic relief may be obtained with conservative treatments, including rest, a shoulder sling, pain medications, steroidal injections and certain exercises. However, surgery is required to fix the tendon back to the shoulder bone. Rotator cuff repair may be performed by open surgery or arthroscopic procedure. In arthroscopy, space for rotator cuff tendons will be increased, and the cuff tear is repaired using suture anchors. These anchor sutures help in attaching the tendons to the shoulder bone. Following the surgery you may be advised participate in physical therapy to regain range of motion and muscle strength.

Brian J. Cole, M.D., M.B.A.

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