The rotator cuff is responsible for stabilizing and moving the shoulder. When patients tear their rotator cuff, they typically experience pain, instability, and have a difficult time performing day-to-day activities. The two causes of rotator cuff tears are injury and degeneration.

  • Patients who are most at risk to sustain a rotator cuff tear due to injury are those that participate in sports or activities that require overhead motions.
  • Patients who are most at risk to sustain a degenerative rotator cuff tear are those that are over the age of 40.

Regardless of their cause, rotator cuff tears should always be seen by an orthopedic specialist. Once a specialist determines the severity of the tear and makes an official diagnosis, they prescribe a treatment plan that helps patients recover.

Degenerative Rotator Cuff Tears

There are four rotator cuff muscles. The supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis each have a role in helping the rotator cuff function properly. Each muscle is attached to the upper portion of the humerus (arm bone) by tendons known as the rotator cuff tendons. Like all tendons and soft tissues of the body, the rotator cuff tendons are susceptible to wear and tear associated with aging processes. A degenerative rotator cuff tear occurs when the tendons are partially or completely torn because of such processes.

 Symptoms of Degenerative Rotator Cuff Tears

Small degenerative rotator cuff tears may be asymptomatic. When tears become larger over time, they typically produce pain, stiffness, and weakness. Patients with complete degenerative rotator cuff tears have a hard time performing movements essential for day-to-day living. Picking up and grabbing objects and lifting the arm may be extremely hard for these patients. The first step to treating symptoms is receiving a diagnosis.

Diagnosing and Treating Degenerative Rotator Cuff Tears 

Orthopedic specialists are the most qualified medical professional to diagnosis degenerative rotator cuff tears. The diagnostic process usually occurs as follows:

  1. A medical history is taken. The patient explains their symptoms—what they are like, when the starting occurring, and if there was an injury that caused them.
  2. A physical examination is performed. The specialist performs a thorough physical examination to determine the location and severity of the tear.
  3. Medical imaging studies are ordered and reviewed. X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans show the bones, muscles, and soft tissues of the shoulder. A specialist orders and reviews these tests to definitively diagnose a degenerative rotator cuff tear.

Once a diagnosis is made, a treatment plan is created and prescribed. The most common nonsurgical treatment options include activity modification, medications, and physical therapy. Surgical treatment options may be recommended for some rotator cuff tears. A rotator cuff repair may be performed as an arthroscopic or open procedure to reattach torn tendons to the humerus.

Seeking Treatment for Degenerative Rotator Cuff Tears

If you are experiencing shoulder pain and would like a treatment solution, please contact our office to make an appointment with one of our orthopedic specialists. Our office representatives can be reached M-F during normal working hours.

High Mountain Orthopedics specializes in bone, joint and muscle injuries, including shoulder injuries. Dr. William Matarese, Dr. Tony Wanich and Dr. Sherwin Su have over 25 years of combined experienced treating orthopedic and sports injuries. Our practice uses a multi-disciplinary approach that includes physical therapy and activity modification. If surgery is necessary, our team utilizes the latest advancements in Minimally Invasive and Arthroscopic procedures to expedite the healing process. If you are suffering from a bone, joint or muscle injury – contact our offices today!  We have locations in Wayne, Clifton and Englewood, NJ.