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Shoulder Pain

Return to main Orthopedics Page Return to Main Orthopedics Page

Rotator Cuff Tear

sholder-pain-graphic A Rotator Cuff Tear is a large tendon comprised of four muscles that combine to form a "cuff" over the upper end of the arm. The rotator cuff helps to lift and rotate the arm and to stabilize the ball of the shoulder within the joint. A Rotator Cuff Tear may result from an acute injury such as a fall or by chronic wear and tear. Typically, you'll feel pain in the front of your shoulder that travels down the side of your arm. You may feel the pain with overhead activities such as lifting or reaching or even when you sleep on the affected side. If the tear occurs with an injury you may experience acute pain, a snapping sensation, and an immediate weakness of the arm.

Many Rotator Cuff Tears can be treated nonsurgically. Anti-inflammatory medication, steroid injections, and physical therapy may all be of benefit. However, if you're active and use your arm for overhead work or sports, then surgery is most often recommended because tears will not heal without surgery.


Bursae are small, fluid-filled sacs located in joints throughout the body, including the shoulder. They act as a cushion between bones and the overlying soft tissue. Excessive use of the shoulder can lead to inflammation and swelling of the bursa between the rotator cuff and part of the shoulder blade known as the acromion. This results in the condition known as Bursitis. With this condition, tissues in the shoulder can become inflamed and painful making daily activities such as combing your hair or getting dressed difficult.

Treatment for Bursitis begins with nonsurgical treatments such as rest, alternating activities, and physical therapy to improve shoulder strength. Anti-inflammatory medications may also be prescribed. As with most injuries, if nonsurgical options don't work, surgery may be the only way to fully correct the problem.


Tendinitis is caused by the wearing down of the tendon that connects the muscle to the bone over time. Generally, Tendinitis is one of two types: Acute — excessive throwing or overhead activities during work or sports; and Chronic — related to degenerative diseases like arthritis or repetitive wear and tear due to age. Those with Tendinitis may experience pain that interferes with normal day-to-day activities, soreness that doesn't improve with self-care measures, or swollen or inflamed area around the shoulder.

Treatment for Tendinitis can include a combination of rest, splints, and heat and/or cold applications. Depending on the severity of your Tendinitis, treatments such as physical therapy, corticosteroid injections, or even surgery may be needed.

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