What is a rotator cuff tear?

Normally, a rotator cuff tear is the primary reason for shoulder pain, instability and immobility. As a result, a tear in the rotator cuff muscles weakens the shoulder, preventing you from fulfilling your duties. Due to a rotator cuff tear, casual habits such as brushing your hair, dressing up for work or school and sweeping the yard become harder to do each day.

How does Dr van Niekerk check for a rotator cuff tear?

An ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are detailed imaging studies done to identify and examine the extent of the tear in the tendon. Fortunately, an MRI provides a thorough visual scope of the major structures, including the shoulder’s rotator cuff.

What causes a rotator cuff tear?

A rotator cuff tear can occur suddenly; this type of incident is referred to as an acute tear. Alternatively, a rotator cuff tear may occur due to degenerative reasons such as poor blood supply, meaning that less blood flows to the rotator cuff tendons. Usually, repetitive strain on the shoulder, more specifically the rotator cuff, can lead to a tear.

How do you resolve a rotator cuff tear?

A minor rotator cuff injury can be managed conservatively through physical therapy, the application of ice packs and plenty of rest. However, a serious injury such as a rotator cuff tear can only be treated through surgery.

Procedures done to repair a rotator cuff tear include the following:

  • First, arthroscopic surgery (keyhole surgery) is performed to repair a tear in the tendon of the rotator cuff. Next, smaller incisions are created over the problematic area. As a result, Dr van Niekerk can insert the flexible yet sturdy scope (arthroscope) into the joint to repair the tear.
  • Open surgery to repair a torn tendon aims to rejoin the damaged tendon to the bone through a larger incision.
  • Shoulder replacement treats a severely damaged rotator cuff. As a result, a favoured procedure called reverse shoulder arthroplasty involves placing the ball part of the synthetic joint onto the shoulder blade. Afterwards, the socket portion is inserted into the arm bone. Generally, the procedure is carried out to improve shoulder stability and relieve pain.


What forms of sport can lead to a rotator cuff tear?

Overhead and throwing sports like weightlifting, basketball and tennis are common forms of sport that lead to a rotator cuff tear.

Do pain injections exist for a torn rotator cuff?

Local anaesthetics delivered via injection to the shoulder can help relieve pain from a rotator cuff tear. However, these types of shots only relieve pain temporarily. These pain injections can also lead to damage to the tendon over time.

Can a damaged rotator cuff heal itself?

Typically, a rotator cuff tear cannot heal without surgical intervention. However, there still remains a possibility that minor (partial) tears can heal without surgery. However, failure to seek treatment can lead to increased pain and uncertainty.