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At Slocum Center for Orthopedics & Sports Medicine, several of our orthopedic surgeons specialize in rotator cuff surgery. One of the most important components of the shoulder, the rotator cuff, is comprised of a group of muscles and tendons that hold the shoulder joint in place. The rotator cuff helps to lift and rotate the arm and to stabilize the ball of the shoulder within the joint. A tear in the rotator cuff is a common cause of pain and disability among adults and often requires significant time for rehabilitation.


A rotator cuff tear commonly occurs in people over the age of 50, as well as among younger people following acute trauma or repetitive overhead work or sports activity. Another injury to the shoulder, such as a fracture or dislocation, may result in a tear.


Before vigorous activity, take time to condition the shoulder to strengthen it and avoid inflammation. Use lower resistance and higher repetitions to strengthen the small muscles of the rotator cuff. Avoid undertaking any sports activities or gardening without properly warming up. While this is useful advice, it may not prevent a rotator cuff tear from happening.

Excessive strain on the rotator cuff, swelling, and soreness can result from overhead movement or reaching behind the back. The act of throwing is the most stressful motion on the shoulder.


Often nonsurgical treatment can relieve pain and improve the shoulder’s function. In those instances, we may recommend rest and limited overhead activity, use of a sling, anti-inflammatory medication, steroid injection, strengthening exercise, and/or physical therapy. Depending on the extent of the injury, strength and mobility may take several weeks or months to restore.

If these options don’t relieve the symptoms, surgery may be recommended. Surgery may also be the best option if any of these conditions are present: the tear is acute and painful, it is the dominant arm of an active individual, or maximum arm strength is needed for overhead work or sports.

In determining the best type of surgery, the orthopedist will consider the size, shape, and location of the tear. Many surgical repairs can be done on an outpatient basis. More complex procedures may require hospitalization.

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