Torn rotator cuff tendon

A torn rotator cuff tendon is damage to one or more of the four tendons that cover the shoulder joint. These tendons connect the rotator cuff muscles to the upper arm bone (humerus), shoulder bone (scapula), and collarbone (clavicle).

It takes tremendous force to tear a healthy rotator cuff tendon. This may occur from a direct blow to or overstretching of the tendon. Tears almost always occur in rotator cuffs that have been inflamed, scarred, or frayed. These types of tears can develop slowly over time without a known injury. In less-active older adults, simple movements such as lifting an object can cause a tear.

Symptoms of a torn tendon include:

  • Weakness, stiffness, and limited ability or inability to raise or turn the arm.
  • A popping sound heard at the time of the tear.
  • Pain, especially when the arm is moved against resistance. Nighttime pain is also common.
  • Swelling or a bump at the site of the tear.

Treatment for a torn rotator cuff focuses on relieving pain and inflammation; restoring shoulder motion, strength, flexibility, and function; and preventing further injury and loss of strength and movement in the shoulder

Treatment for a torn tendon will vary depending on the exact location and severity of the tear and the person's age and overall health. Nonsurgical treatment may include rest, ice, anti-inflammatory medications, and physical therapy. A complete tear usually requires surgery.

Last Updated: September 19, 2009

Author: Jan Nissl, RN, BS

Medical Review: Martin Gabica, MD - Family Medicine & William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine

related physicians

related services

Bon Secours International| Sisters of Bon Secours USA| Bon Secours Health System

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Privacy Policy. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2010 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.