The shoulder allows for an extensive range of motion, far greater than other joints, which makes it – and the supporting tendons and ligaments – particularly susceptible to injury. Within the shoulder joint, the rotator cuff helps you lift and rotate your arm as well as maintain the stability of the ball-shaped bone of the humerus in the shoulder socket.

Rotator cuffs can tear because of an acute injury such as a fall, but they are very common in the older population due to wear and tear. It’s estimated that over 30% of the UK population over the age of 70 are suffering from a rotator cuff tear to some degree.

The muscles that make up the rotator cuff include the Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus, Teres Minor and Subscapularis muscles and, if any of them are damaged, it is described as a rotator cuff tear.

Noticing you have a rotator cuff tear

A degenerative rotator cuff tear can often be symptomless to begin with, but overtime it’s likely to become more severe and affect your range of motion and function. Symptoms include:

  • Difficulty in raising or moving your arm in certain directions
  • Pain if you move your arm in a certain way
  • Pain at night that prevents you sleeping on your injured shoulder
  • Weakness in the arm
  • Clicking or grating sounds when you move your arm

Treatment of a rotator cuff tear

Many patients ask if it is possible for a rotator cuff tear to heal without surgery. A complete tear, with most of the tendon torn and no fibres or tissues attached to the bone, will not heal without surgery and usually requires surgical repair to restore function and decrease pain and discomfort.

However, for a partial tear it is possible to restore quality of life without an operation. Conservative management of rotator cuff tears include anti-inflammatory medication, steroid injections, and physical therapy to retrain the soft tissues of the shoulder so it can function without pain or further damage to the rotator cuff.

The severity of the tear, your age, and degree of activity prior to injury are all taken into account. Athletes that wish to return to a high level of play will often require surgery.

To find out if you require surgical repair of the rotator cuff, call 03330 124 051 to arrange a consultation with Mr George-Malal.