Rotator Cuff Tear

Understanding a Rotator Cuff Tear

The rotator cuff is a specific muscle grouping (or tendon grouping) that exists near the shoulder joint. The rotator cuff is meant to support the top of the bone in your upper arm and keep it inside the socket in the shoulder. However, when you experience a rotator cuff injury or a rotator cuff tear, you may feel an ache in your shoulder that can worsen in severity if left untreated.

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If you believe you might have a rotator cuff tear, check for the following symptoms:

  • Arm and muscle weakness in the area
  • Difficulty when reaching behind your back, or when washing/combing your hair.
  • Irregular or disturbed sleeping patterns
  • A dull ache in your shoulder so deep that a massage can’t reach it

It is also recommended to consult with an orthopedic physician if you think you might be suffering from a rotator cuff tear, rotator cuff injury, or shoulder pain.

Causes and Risk Factors

Rotator cuff injuries typically affect the older population as wear and tear is a common cause. Younger patients can also experience rotator cuff injuries– typically, those who have jobs that require lots of lifting overhead or that require repeated motions overhead (such as carpenters and painters, for example).

Additionally, suffering trauma or a severe injury in the area can also result in a rotator cuff tear. A family history of rotator cuff tears is another factor that may increase your risk of developing a rotator cuff tear.

Left untreated, rotator cuff tears can cause further tender deterioration, frozen shoulder (if the shoulder is immobilized), and more, so it’s best to consult with an orthopedist or other medical professional.

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Many patients worry they'll have a long recovery period after a shoulder procedure. We take a minimally-invasive approach to restore the shoulder's function, shortening recovery time and reducing pain.

Treatment and Prevention

To prevent a rotator cuff tear, daily exercise meant to strengthen the area, as well as exercise meant to target the chest, upper arm, and shoulder are recommended. Additionally, if you work to strengthen the muscles in the shoulder blade area and the shoulders, you can increase the balance of your shoulder muscles, which also helps prevent rotator cuff tears.

If you do experience a rotator cuff injury, however, there are a very many treatment options available with most patients making full recoveries. Physical therapy, over the counter medications, rest, pain management procedures, chiropractic, and sometimes even surgery are recommended.

Rotator Cuff Tear FAQs

  • Rotator cuff tears are a frequent cause of shoulder pain and disability. Common causes of rotator cuff tears include traumatic injuries, chronic tendonitis, or a combination of both. Rotator cuff tears may be caused by a fall, direct blow, or rapid use of force, such as pulling forcefully on a lawn mower starting cord. Repetitive reaching, pushing off with the arms and forceful or abrupt overhead arm movements can also contribute to rotator cuff tears. Sports involving
    forceful or abrupt overhead arm movements, such as baseball, tennis and wrestling, are known to cause rotator cuff tears in professional and amateur athletes.

  • A rotator cuff may causes dull, achy pain in the front of your shoulder that travels down the outside of the arm. Recurrent pain with overhead activity and nighttime pain are also common. Torn rotator cuffs can cause weakness when attempting to lift the arm and difficulty raising the arm overhead. Sometimes a snapping sensation occurs when the shoulder is moved.

  • Surgery is not always required to treat a rotator cuff tear, especially for partial tears. Non surgical treatment includes rest, avoiding activities that cause shoulder pain, non-steroidal anti inflammatory medications such as naproxen or ibuprofen, strengthening exercises, physical therapy, and steroid injections to reduce pain and inflammation.

  • Rotator cuff tears can worsen over time. Repetitive use or trauma can cause a small tear to become larger over time. Worsening pain and increased weakness may indicate that a tear has progressed.


Rotator cuff tears and shoulder pain do not have to be scary. There are treatment options available and our expert doctors are here to help with your shoulder pain. Contact us today in either Hoboken or Jersey City! We serve Bayonne, West New York, Union City, and all of Hudson County.

Additional Resources

Rotator cuff injury- Mayo Clinic

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