Rotator Cuff Tears

The rotator cuff is a very important structure in the shoulder that keeps the “ball” centered in the “socket.” The rotator cuff gives us much of our normal healthy strength and range of motion, especially when reaching the arm away from the body. Rotator cuff problems range from mild inflammation and swelling (tendinitis) to complete tearing of the rotator cuff. Rotator cuff problems can cause significant pain, weakness, and disability.

The rotator cuff is like a rope made out of many fibers. A normal rope has no fraying or tearing of those fibers. The rope is new, normal, and does everything it is designed to do. Sometimes the rope becomes worn, frayed, with some fibers popping here and there. This is like "wear and tear" of the rotator cuff with age. The wear can advance to where one of the three "cords" of the rope snaps but the other two are intact, this is called a "partial tear" of the rotator cuff. Finally, the entire rope may snap and fail, and the rope is no longer usable. This is a complete tear of the rotator cuff.

A labeled picture of a rotator cuff tear
A Shoulder Scope Picture Showing a Rotator Cuff Tear

Treatment for rotator cuff tears depends on many factors. These include the size of the tear, the age of the tear, and other problems that may be present (for example, arthritis). But the most important factor is YOUR needs and goals as a person!

Dr. Nelson trained with the world’s foremost experts in rotator cuff problems at the world-renowned Shoulder Unit at the Centre Orthopedique Santy in Lyon, France. Dr. Nelson is an expert in the physical examination and evaluation of rotator cuff injuries, and performs approximately 150 shoulder surgeries every year, including rotator cuff repair.

Dr. Johnny T. Nelson one of the only orthopaedic providers in North Carolina to use in-office ultrasound to evaluate for rotator cuff tears. This can help avoid unnecessary and costly imaging studies such as MRIs.


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