Rotator Cuff Tear Treatment

Every year in the U.S., nearly 2 million people visit their doctor to get relief from symptoms caused by issues with the rotator cuff, a part of the shoulder. Pain from a torn rotator cuff can make it hard to do even the simplest daily activities. And the longer you wait to get help, the worse the injury may affect you.

In our Shoulder and Elbow Program, our skilled, experienced orthopaedic team improves your symptoms and restores your quality of life. Using leading-edge technology and personalized therapies, they help you get back to the life you love, fast.

What is a Rotator Cuff?

Three bones make up your shoulder:

  • Upper arm bone (humerus)
  • Shoulder blade (scapula)
  • Collarbone (clavicle)

The rotator cuff is the muscle, or tendons, that covers the ball, or head, of the humerus. The humerus fits into the socket of the scapula. The rotator cuff's job is to keep your arm in the socket and provide arm function.

An injury or wear and tear to the tendon are the most common causes of problems in rotator cuff muscles. 

What Does It Feel Like When You Have a Torn Rotator Cuff?

Rotator cuff tear symptoms include:

  • Pain, especially when you lay on the injured shoulder
  • Pain when you lift and lower your arm
  • Arm weakness, especially when lifting or moving it in a circular motion
  • A crackling feeling when you move your shoulder

Treatments for a Torn Rotator Cuff

If you suspect you have a rotator cuff problem, see an experienced shoulder specialist as soon as possible. While 80% of rotator cuff injuries can be healed using nonsurgical methods, minor injuries may become major without prompt treatment.

Nonsurgical rotator cuff treatments include:

  • Rest and modification to your activities
  • Putting your arm in a sling
  • Physical therapy and rotator cuff exercises
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs)
  • Numbing or steroid injections

Rotator Cuff Surgery

When deciding if rotator cuff surgery is right for you, we take the time to explain your options—along with their benefits and risks. Other factors in your treatment plan include your age, lifestyle, anatomy and goals.

Our surgical options include:

  • Mini-open surgery: Your surgeon uses a small incision to repair your rotator cuff. This procedure is the classic approach to rotator cuff surgery.
  • Arthroscopic surgery: Your surgeon uses small, specialized instruments and a camera to fix rotator cuff tears via tiny incisions.
  • Traditional open surgery: This procedure can be used to fix large or complex tears.

Tendon Transfers

Tendon transfers repair the rotator cuff using a tendon from elsewhere in the body. We offer lower trapezius tendon transfers. Your surgeon:

  1. Harvests back muscle (lower trapezius) and attaches it to a donor Achilles tendon (allograft)
  2. Transfers the tendon to the humerus using tiny incisions and instruments
  3. Attaches the tendon to the humerus so it can function in place of the rotator cuff

Traditionally, surgeons used the latissimus dorsi, a muscle found in the lower back, for these procedures. But research has shown that using the lower trapezius is safer for patients and provides better shoulder function.

This procedure may improve your pain and function if you:

  • Have had one or more failed rotator cuff surgeries 
  • Have tears that can't be fixed
  • Aren't a candidate for joint replacement surgery
  • Work with your arms and shoulders (for example, as a laborer or construction worker)

Reverse Total Shoulder Replacement Surgery

Rotator cuff tears that can't be repaired or are accompanied by severe arthritis can make everyday life difficult. People often experience a lot of pain and can't lift their arm. Reverse total shoulder replacement can provide relief.

During these procedures, we reverse the traditional anatomic total shoulder replacement. Our surgical team puts the metal ball where the socket goes and vice versa. Reverse total shoulder replacements help patients restore arm function and reduce pain.

Get Help or Make an Appointment

To learn more or make an appointment, call or send a message to the Shoulder and Elbow team.

Available 24 hours a day