Partial & Complete Rotator Cuff Tears

What Is a Rotator Cuff Tear?

A rotator cuff tear is an injury to one or more of the four muscle tendons that attach to the upper arm (humerus). A tendon can be partially torn (not completely severed) or completely torn (the tendon and muscle are no longer attached to the bone). The four rotator cuff muscles act to raise the arm out to the side and rotate the arm inwards and outwards. Some common causes of rotator cuff tears include repetitive injuries such as repetitive overhead movements, throwing/pitching injuries, weightlifting injuries (especially a heavy bench press), or traumatic injuries, such as falling or trying to catch a heavy object.

Symptoms of a Rotator Cuff Tear:

  • A tender, sore shoulder during shoulder activity
  • Difficulty raising the arm above the head
  • Pain at night in the affected shoulder


There are nonsurgical and surgical treatment options available for rotator cuff tears. Both treatment types are performed by our shoulder specialists at Orthopaedic Specialists. 

Nonsurgical Treatment for Rotator Cuff Tears

Depending on the severity of your injury, mild cases of rotator cuff tears may be treated with rest, anti-inflammatories, therapy, and/or cortisone injections. In mild cases, simply resting the shoulder can be very effective for pain relief. While nonsurgical treatment can relieve mild cases of the condition, surgery may be necessary for more severe cases.

Surgical Treatment for Rotator Cuff Tears

Arthroscopic Rotator Cuff Repair (Minimally Invasive)

Orthopaedic surgeons Dr. John Hoffman and Dr. Tuvi Mendel perform arthroscopic rotator cuff repair surgery, a minimally invasive method of reattaching the torn rotator cuff tendon to the humeral head. During surgery, small incisions are made, through which an arthroscope (small video camera) is inserted into your shoulder joint to allow your surgeon to view the surgery on a monitor. Special instrumentation is used to suture the torn rotator cuff tendon(s) to the proper location. This technique results in smaller incisions, less scarring, less pain, and faster recovery than the open surgical procedure.

Traditional Open Rotator Cuff Repair Surgery

The open rotator cuff repair surgery requires an open incision and detachment of the deltoid (shoulder) muscle to see and have open access to the torn tendon. Then the surgeon removes any bone spurs in the area. This method is used when the arthroscopic technique alone is unable to address the problems, such as in large retracted cuff tears.

Recovery Following Rotator Cuff Repair

Everyone’s experience recovering from a rotator cuff injury is unique. Part of what will factor into your healing process is the severity of the tear and what type of treatment you used to repair it. For minimally invasive arthroscopic rotator cuff repair, patients can typically return home the same day. Most take between a few days and a week off from work and regular activities depending on the type of responsibilities the patient’s day-to-day entails. Your arm will be placed in a sling, which you will need to wear for several weeks. You may also need to wear a shoulder immobilizer, and our surgeons will discuss the care of this apparatus with you if you need one. We will manage your pain with prescription medication, and you will be encouraged to perform certain exercises to help your shoulder heal. Physical therapy is an important part of the recovery process, and your therapist will provide additional information on what stretches and exercises are appropriate for you. Most patients can return to full recreational activity after four to six months, and your surgeon will discuss what movements are appropriate at various stages. If you ever have any questions about your progress, we encourage you to reach out to our team.