The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that act to stabilize the shoulder. The muscles and tendons surround the shoulder joint, keeping the ball of the upper arm bone seated in the shallow socket of the shoulder. Rotator cuff injuries are commonly associated with activities that require repeated overhead or forceful pulling motions. The risk of rotator cuff injury also increases with age.
Many recover from a rotator cuff injury through physical therapy that improves flexibility and shoulder muscle strength. Surgery may be required for severe injuries involving a complete tear of the muscle or tendon (or if nonsurgical treatment has failed to improve shoulder strength and movement sufficiently).
Surgical repair involves re-attaching tendons to the bone, often using small rivets or suture anchors. It may also include shaving off bone spurs in order to make more room for the rotator cuff tendon so it is not pinched or irritated. The surgery may be done via scope, open surgery, or a combination of both. Open surgery, done for large or more complex tears, means a 2-3 inch incision. Arthroscopic surgery, though technically more demanding on the physician, tends to mean less post-operative pain, fewer wound complications, and quicker recovery time.