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rotator cuff


Whether you have had chronic shoulder pain or an acute injury, the pain in your shoulder is significant. Imaging studies, such as an MRI, have revealed you have a rotator cuff tear and it is now time for you to decide on treatment options.


The first thing to do is for your surgeon to determine the type of tear:


  • Partial rotator cuff tear
  • Full-thickness rotator cuff tear
  • Chronic rotator cuff tear


Partial rotator cuff tear

A partial rotator cuff tear may in fact do well with a conservative treatment plan. Dr. Thomas Samuelson at Kansas City Bone & Joint Clinic notes, “It is possible for a partial rotator cuff tear to do well with non-operative treatment. Therapy, medications by mouth and a one-time cortisone injection may be considered for those patients with partial tears. The tissue is able to scar in and if the pain improves, then surgery may be avoided.”  He goes on to note that if pain continues, a surgical option may need to be considered.


Full-thickness rotator cuff tear

This term “full-thickness” or “massive” may have been used on your MRI report to indicate that the tear is significant. Depending on your age, pain and the level of activity that you would like to return to, surgery most likely will be recommended.


Chronic rotator cuff tear

At times, a tear is so large or chronic (older tear) it is unable to be repaired. Recurrent tears in the cuff tissue may also limit the ability to re-repair the tissue. In this case, the tear may increase over time and ultimately require a reverse shoulder replacement procedure.


Each individual patient is assessed to determine the best treatment options. Our next post will discuss more information about rotator cuff surgery and surgical recovery.


Go to Part 2, Rotator Cuff Tendonitis

Go to Part 4, Rotator Cuff Surgery and Recovery


Author: Amy M. Roberts, MS, ATC/L

Kansas City Bone & Joint Clinic