Rotator Cuff Tears

ValleyOrtho’s physicians treat a wide range of common shoulder injuries, including rotator cuff tears.


The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that help provide stability and mobility to the shoulder. The four muscles include the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor and subscapularis.

The tendons of these four muscles come together to connect the upper arm bone, or “humerus”, to the shoulder blade, or “scapula.” The tendons form a “cuff” around the shoulder joint. The supraspinatus tendon is the most frequently torn tendon in the shoulder.


Tears to the rotator cuff can be caused by an injury such as a fall or impact to the shoulder. Other causes include repetitive lifting or pulling, or lifting too much overhead. Long term or “chronic” tears are more common and are caused by wear and tear over the years, placing individuals over the age of 40 at increased risk. People that do repetitive activities in their jobs such as painting or hammering are also at an increased risk for tears.


  • Limited range of motion (ROM) especially when lifting the arm to the side away from the body
  • Muscle weakness (atrophy)
  • Pain at night while trying to sleep
  • Pain near the tear, radiating pain down the upper arm


A thorough physical exam, X-rays, presence of symptoms and history review are the basis for determining the source of shoulder pain. An MRI may be used to provide a detailed, high-resolution image of the bones, joints and surrounding soft tissues, such as tendons, ligaments and muscles. It helps us understand how extensive the damage or abnormality is and if surgery is potentially required.


Factors that determine the appropriate treatment include the size of the tear, patient age, symptoms and functional goals. Physical therapy can help to decrease pain, address strength deficiencies and correct biomechanics.

The majority of shoulder injuries respond to a nonsurgical approach, such as anti-inflammatory medications, icing, rest, physical therapy, or a temporary sling and/or brace. If symptoms fail to improve with conservative care, rotator cuff surgery may be indicated.

At ValleyOrtho, we understand that shoulder pain takes our patients out of activities and work, which is why we are committed to developing specifically tailored treatment plans to help get our patient’s back to an active lifestyle.