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Rotator Cuff Tear

Rotator cuff tears are a common injury in people over the age of 40. The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons surrounding the top of the humerus (upper arm bone) and holding it in the shoulder joint. A tear may result from a single traumatic blow to the area or may develop gradually because of activities in which the arm makes repetitive overhead motions, such as tennis and swimming. The injury is more likely to occur in a person's dominant arm – the right shoulder for right-handed people and the left for lefties. A partial tear may cause pain when the arm is lifted away from the body (painful arc syndrome), and a complete tear can make it difficult to raise the arm at all.

Our Approach to Rotator Cuff Tears

UCSF is committed to helping patients with rotator cuff tears recover shoulder function and return to their favorite activities. Our team includes orthopedic surgeons, primary care sports medicine doctors, physical therapists and athletic trainers, all of whom collaborate to tailor a treatment plan to each patient's needs and goals. Keeping our team on the forefront of new therapeutic options, UCSF's nationally recognized experts in rotator cuff research lead many studies and are active in investigating the role of stem cells in rotator cuff muscle regeneration.

Treatment for a rotator cuff tear depends on the injury's cause and severity. We usually begin with a plan that combines rest, anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapy. Some patients benefit from a steroid injection to bring down inflammation.

Some tears require surgical repair, which we perform using minimally invasive techniques. For patients with serious damage or degenerative conditions, we may surgically replace portions of the shoulder joint with a metal and plastic implant (reverse shoulder replacement).

Awards & recognition

  • usnews-neurology

    Among the top hospitals in the nation

  • usnews-orthopedics

    One of the nation's best for orthopedic care

UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.