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The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons in the shoulder. It keeps your shoulder stable and allows you to lift and rotate your arm. When you have a rotator cuff tear, it means one of the tendons has torn. The tear can be partial or complete.
Dignity Health hospitals are committed to treating your pain at its source, so you can get back to what’s important in life. To find specialized orthopedic care for rotator cuff tear in the Bay Area, use our online Find a Doctor tool.
The primary symptom of a torn rotator cuff is pain. If the tear develops over time, the pain can be mild and progressively worsen. You may experience pain at night when lying on the shoulder and when lifting and lowering your arm. Other symptoms include a creaking or crackling sensation when you move your arm and weakness in the arm.
If the tear happens suddenly, the pain will be immediate and severe. You may also feel a pop or a snapping sensation with immediate weakness.
In most cases, a sudden rotator cuff tear is the result of trauma, such as jerking to lift something heavy or a fall.
Gradual wear and tear to the tendon occurs with age and overuse. Repetitive shoulder motions can irritate the tendon and cause an overuse injury. This type of rotator cuff tear usually occurs in the dominant arm.
Other age-related factors include decreased blood supply to the rotator cuff tendons and the development of bone spurs.
If you suspect you’ve torn a rotator cuff, see a doctor at Dignity Health as soon as possible. Early intervention can keep the injury from getting worse and get you back to enjoying life pain-free.
Treatment usually begins with resting the shoulder. Your doctor may also recommend taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen. These medicines help the tissue heal by reducing pain and inflammation. In some cases, corticosteroid injections are necessary.
Physical therapy can also be used to help restore movement, increase mobility, and strengthen the muscles that support your shoulder. Dignity Health offers physical therapy at any of our four Bay Area hospitals — Saint Francis Memorial Hospital and St. Mary’s Medical Center in San Francisco, Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City, and Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz.
If nonsurgical treatments fail to relieve your symptoms, rotator cuff repair surgery may be necessary. No matter the solution, you can trust Dignity Health with all your rotator cuff treatment needs. Call 844.560.2508 for a doctor referral today.