The rotator cuff comprises of four muscles (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis, and teres minor) and several tendons that cover the head of the humerus, ultimately holding it in place and enabling the arm to rotate. Despite its name, the rotator cuff does not only aid in rotation of the shoulder, but it also holds the ball of the shoulder in place within the joint and lowers the head of the humerus as the arm is lifted.
Tears in the rotator cuff happen frequently from sports related injuries, especially those that involve overhead movement or rotation of the shoulder, such as tennis, baseball, badminton, racket-ball, bowling, weight lifting and rowing.
Most tears in the rotator cuff happen as a result of years of wear and tear, or overuse of the shoulder. Most individuals suffering from tears in the rotator cuff are adults over 40 years old, whereas the younger cases are results of traumatic or sports injuries.
The most common symptom of a shoulder rotator cuff is pain in the shoulder muscles when lifting the arm overhead or lowering it after lifting. You will also experience weakness and a crackling in the shoulder when lifting or rotating the arm.
Individuals that have tears in their rotator cuff tendons that don't feel any relief after treatment are considered good candidates for surgery, especially if there is a complete tear in the tendon. This can result in not being able to raise the arm.
Repair of the shoulder's rotator cuff is considered a minimally invasive surgery performed with the guidance of an arthroscope. This procedure is minimally invasive if the tear is partial or small. A tiny camera (arthroscope) is inserted into a small incision in the shoulder. Any loose fragments of the tendon are discarded. This is called a debridement. A complete tear of the rotator cuff muscles will require an open surgery, in which the thickest part of the tendon is repaired by stitching the two sides of the tendon back together.
The procedure can also be done completely arthroscopically, again depending on the size and depth of the tear.