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Rotator Cuff Tear

Expert treatment for your rotator cuff tear

You might not realize it, but whenever you lift a dumbbell or swing a tennis racquet, you activate an important group of muscle tendons and ligaments that keep your shoulder stable. The rotator cuff is made up of four muscles and tendons that surround your shoulder joint – and when they become damaged, even the smallest movements can be painful.

If it’s difficult or painful when you raise your arm or perform other movements, you might have a rotator cuff tear.

At TRIA, our world class orthopedic specialists, physical therapists, athletic trainers and orthopedic surgeons specialize in treating your partial or complete rotator cuff tear.

"I'm deeply grateful for the superb medical care that was provided to me, resulting in a 100% functional and pain-free right shoulder post-surgery."

What are the symptoms of a rotator cuff tear?
  • Pain at the front and side of the shoulder or upper arm
  • Limited range of motion in your shoulder
  • Pain in the shoulder when performing certain movements
  • Feeling weakness and pain even when at rest
  • Difficulty sleeping due to shoulder pain

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it might be time to make an appointment with an orthopedic shoulder specialist.

What causes a rotator cuff tear?

A damaged or torn rotator cuff may occur suddenly from an accident or develop over time because of repetitive stress on the shoulder joint. Symptoms will vary depending on how you injured your joint and whether you have a full or partial tear. When your rotator cuff is injured, your shoulder may feel inflamed, painful or stiff. This kind of shoulder injury affects your range of motion, strength and overall function.

Whether it’s a small tear from daily repetitive use, or a more serious injury resulting from an accident, rotator cuff tears are one of the most common shoulder injuries for athletes – and as the rotator cuff muscles become thinner over time, tears can become more common as you age.

Diagnosing rotator cuff tears

When you come in for shoulder pain, our doctors will start by asking you questions about your symptoms and when the pain started. We’ll also walk you through a few movements to test for strength, mobility and range of motion. Then we’ll determine if imaging tests will be needed to diagnose your shoulder condition.

Diagnostic imaging for rotator cuff tears

To diagnose your shoulder condition, our doctors may recommend one of our quick and painless imaging methods: X-ray, computed tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Each of these tests gives us the opportunity to look closer at the bones of your shoulder, as well as detect any tears or damage to the tendons and muscles surrounding it.

Treating rotator cuff tears

Some rotator cuff tears can be treated through physical therapy and medications, while others require more intensive treatments such as surgery. At TRIA, we will never push you toward surgery unless it’s the most effective treatment for you. We have a variety of treatment options to help you get back to your important activities.

Medications for rotator cuff tears

Depending on your diagnosis, we may recommend anti-inflammatory medications to help reduce pain and inflammation you’re experiencing with your rotator cuff injury. Medications may also be suggested when you experience rotator cuff tear flare-ups.

Supports for rotator cuff tears

When your rotator cuff tear needs a little more relief our doctors may prescribe a sling or other shoulder support to reduce movement of your arm and secure your shoulder in place. This treatment method allows your muscles and tendons to rest and recover properly.

At TRIA our board-certified orthotists and prosthetists create products that brace, support, block and assist movement to help in rehabilitating your torn rotator cuff. We work closely with patients to ensure proper fit for effective healing.

Corticosteroid injections for rotator cuff tears

You may experience a great deal of shoulder inflammation from your rotator cuff tear. Corticosteroid injections are an anti-inflammatory medication that we may recommend to reduce inflammation. It is used to relieve pain and ease numbness by injecting it around your shoulder joint. Keep in mind, while the shots are helpful at limiting the inflammation, we may encourage you to continue with therapy and other exercises after an injection.

Physical therapy for your rotator cuff tear

Restoring your flexibility and strength is key when you have a rotator cuff tear to limit the build-up of inflammation. Our physical therapists will work closely with you to create an individualized plan focusing on your function, strength and mobility.

Arthroscopy

If surgery is the most effective treatment, shoulder arthroscopy is a precise technique to treat rotator cuff tears. Our doctors may recommend a minimally invasive procedure where we use an arthroscope, a small tube with a camera on the end, to guide us as we remove the damaged tissue in your shoulder joint and fix any tears. The objective is to help restore your normal motion and strength to your injured shoulder.

Open repair surgery

An open shoulder repair surgery, where we need to make a larger incision in your shoulder, may be the best option for more severe or complex tears. And in some cases, a combination of arthroscopy and open repair is necessary. This mini-open repair uses smaller incisions to fix rotator cuff damage.

Specialty treatment programs for rotator cuff tear recovery

You may require continued personalized exercises to limit inflammation and pain from your rotator cuff tear. Aquatic therapy uses water’s natural therapeutic properties of buoyancy, resistance and warmth, to create a gentler environment for exercising your shoulder. This type of treatment is really beneficial for when your injury requires more healing support.

If you’re looking for specialized support to help with your shoulder pain, our Pain Management Program offers the most current and effective medical interventions and therapies. We understand that not all pain is experienced the same way and we help you reduce suffering through our holistic approach to health care. You’ll be able to choose from a variety of treatments that we provide including medication, therapy and specialty care.

If you’re dealing with a rotator cuff tear and want to get back to playing baseball, softball or just throwing a ball, TRIA’s Return to Throwing Program might be a good option for you. This program is designed to assist all throwers in managing and preventing injuries. One of the elements you can expect is a biomechanical video analysis of your throwing motion so that you can be more aware of how your body moves when you get back on the field.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Since shoulder injuries are common, sometimes home treatment is all you need. Applying ice and heat to help reduce your inflammation is important. If your symptoms don’t improve, make an appointment with one of our experts who can help diagnose the injury and provide options for treatment.

It’s always best to talk with one of our doctors first, as many nonsurgical treatment options are available. Should surgery be necessary, when you make an appointment we’ll answer any questions you may have and talk with you about why it is the best course of action. Rest assured that at TRIA, we will never push you toward surgery unless it’s the most effective treatment option for you.

We accept most health insurance plans, including Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, CIGNA, HealthPartners, Medica, Medicare, Medicare Advantage, PreferredOne and many others.

You can check with your insurance to see if your plan covers part or all of the services needed. Call the number on the back of your card for help looking at your options.

Don’t have your card in front of you? Here are member services numbers to help you get started: