Rotator Cuff Tear

The rotator cuff is a group of tendons in the shoulder joint that provide support and enable a wider range-of-motion. Major injury to these tendons may result in the tear of these tendons, which is called a rotator cuff tear. It is one of the most common causes of shoulder pain in middle-aged adults and older individuals.


A rotator cuff tear results from pressure on the rotator cuff from parts of the shoulder blade (scapula) as the arm is lifted. It may occur with repeated use of the arm for overhead activities, while playing sports or from motor accidents.


A rotator cuff tear causes severe pain, weakness of the arm and crackling sensation on moving the shoulder in certain positions. There may be stiffness, swelling, loss of movements and tenderness in the front of the shoulder.


Your surgeon diagnoses a rotator cuff tear based on a physical examination, X-rays and MRI. A rotator cuff tear is best viewed on an MRI.

Treatment Options

A rotator cuff tear can be treated through conservative or surgical methods.

The conservative methods may include:

  • Rest
  • Shoulder sling
  • Pain medication
  • Injection of a steroid (cortisone) and a local anaesthetic in the subacromial space of the affected shoulder to help decrease the inflammation and pain
  • Certain exercises

When conservative treatment options fail to relieve symptoms, a rotator cuff repair may be performed by open surgery (through a long incision) or arthroscopic procedure (minimally invasive procedure performed through small incisions using a narrow lighted tube called arthroscope). During surgery, the space for the 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 to practice motion and strengthening exercises.

Luton and Dunstable University Hospital
  • Spire Healthcare
  • OSD Healthcare
  • The London Clini
  • One Hatfield Hospital
  • The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh