The rotator cuff is the group of tendons in the shoulder joint that provide support and enable a wide range of motion of the shoulder. Major injury to these tendons may result in tear of these tendons and the condition is called a rotator cuff tear. It is one of the most common causes of shoulder pain in middle-aged adults and older individuals. It may occur with repeated use of the arm for overhead activities, while playing sports, or during motor vehicle accidents. Rotator cuff tears cause 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.
Rotator cuff tears are best viewed with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Symptomatic relief may be obtained with conservative treatments such as rest, pain medications, steroid injections, use of an arm sling, and certain exercises. However, surgery is required to reattach the tendon to the shoulder bone. Rotator cuff repair may be performed through shoulder arthroscopy or open surgery. In shoulder arthroscopy, space for rotator cuff tendons will be increased and the cuff tear is repaired using suture anchors. These anchor sutures help in reattaching the tendons to the shoulder bone. Following surgery, you may be referred to physical therapy to perform range of motion and strengthening exercises.