Rotator Cuff Tear

Although there are many reasons for shoulder pain, a common problem for people over 40 years of age is a rotator cuff tear. The rotator cuff is comprised of the muscles and tendons that surround the top of the upper arm bone – the humerus – and hold it in the shoulder joint. A sudden tear may result from a single traumatic event or develop gradually because of repetitive overhead activities. A partial tear may cause pain when the arm is lifted in a certain arc away from the body (painful arc syndrome) and a complete tear may limit the aility to raise the arm. A rotator cuff tear usually occurs in the dominant arm – the right shoulder for right-handed people and the left shoulder for left-handed people.

Our Approach to Rotator Cuff Tear

UCSF is committed to helping patients with rotator cuff tears recover shoulder function and return to their favorite activities. Our team includes orthopedic surgeons, shoulder and other joint specialists, primary care physicians trained in sports medicine, physical therapists and athletic trainers. We work together to tailor a treatment plan to each patient's needs and goals.

Treatment for a rotator cuff tear depends on the cause and extent of the injury. We usually begin with a combination of rest, anti-inflammatory medications, cortisone injections and physical therapy.

Some tears require surgical repair, which we perform using either conventional or 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. We also offer an advanced procedure in which we reverse the joint's ball and socket to stabilize and support the shoulder.

Awards & recognition

  • usnews-neurology

    Best hospital in Northern California

  • usnews-orthopedics

    One of the nation’s best in orthopedics

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.