The rotator cuff is a key component to the normal function of the human shoulder.
It is composed of 4 tendons that attach to the humeral head (ball) of the shoulder joint. These tendons include the subscapularis, supraspinatus, infraspinatus, and teres minor.
The rotator cuff muscles act as a dynamic stabilizer to the shoulder joint when we use our arm for various activities.
While acute tears of the rotator cuff do occur, the majority of tears are chronic in nature. Things like repetitive stress, decreased blood supply associated with aging, and bone spurs can slowly lead to tendon damage over time.
These tears can be partial or complete and can be a significant source of shoulder pain.
Symptoms often include shoulder pain–especially at night, pain with overhead activity, and weakness of the affected shoulder.
Treatment for these injuries is determined by the degree of symptoms. Conservative treatment usually consists of activity modification, NSAID’s, cortisone injections, and physical therapy. If these measures fail to alleviate a patient’s symptoms, then surgical treatment may be required.
Advancements in surgical implants and techniques have allowed us to repair a torn rotator cuff through an arthroscopic technique. Using small anchors and non-absorbable suture, the rotator cuff is repaired back down to its insertion site on the humerus to allow for resolution of symptoms and return of function.
This video is a great example of how orthopedic surgeons approach this injury.