The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that cover the head of the humerus, forming a cuff to keep the arm in its socket. Enabling a wide range of mobility, the rotator cuff allows you to rotate your shoulder and lift your arm. In a rotator cuff tear, the muscles and tendons can be torn in two ways:
- Partial-thickness tear: when one or more of the tendons is damaged
- Full-thickness tear: when one or more of the tendons is entirely severed from the bone
These tears may result from a sudden movement, such as lifting something too heavy, or they may occur gradually over time, either due to old age, repetitive stress, or lack of blood supply. Although partial-thickness tears may be healed with physical therapy, more severe tears may require surgery. Your orthopedic specialist at Comprehensive Medical Care may recommend surgery if your symptoms have persisted for over six months, if the tear is larger than three centimeters, if you are a competitive athlete, or if there is a significant loss of shoulder function.