Rotator Cuff Tears

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Rotator cuff tears can be uncomfortable, painful and disruptive to daily life. Unfortunately, rotator cuff injuries are as common as they are unpleasant. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) the most recent statistics demonstrate that an estimated two million people sought treatment for a rotator cuff issue in 2013. If you suspect that you may have a rotator cuff tear in the shoulder, it’s best to seek the guidance of a medical professional. At OrthoAspen, we specialize in addressing rotator cuff tears to enable our patients to get right back to the active Aspen lifestyle they enjoy!

Causes & Symptoms

Considering that the shoulder consists of several tendons responsible for supporting and enabling the shoulder joint to move, it’s perhaps not surprising that rotator cuff tears occur frequently. Generally, rotator cuff tears result from either a degenerative tear or an acute tear. Here’s how these conditions differ:

  • Degenerative Tear
    A degenerative tear manifests over time. Factors such as repetitive shoulder stress, lack of blood supply and bone spurs can trigger degenerative rotator cuff tears. Think about the impact of repeated overhead shoulder motion and rotation, sports-related use and other types of physical activity that apply continuous pressure and impact on the rotator cuff. Eventually, rotator cuff tears occur as the tendons begin to wear down. Individuals over the age of 40 are often most susceptible to rotator cuff tears due to prolonged stress to the shoulder tendons.
  • Acute Tear
    An acute rotator cuff tear is more indicative of a trauma or injury. An abrupt fall, motor vehicle accident, sudden jerking motion and over-extension of the arm and shoulder often lead to acute rotator cuff tears.

Most people who experience rotator cuff tears will experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Crackling sensation when the shoulder moves into certain positions
  • Stiffness in the shoulder
  • Swelling in the shoulder
  • Limited range of motion and/or tenderness in the front of the shoulder
  • Weakness when attempting to lift or rotate the arm
  • Pain when trying to move the arm and when resting on the affected area of the shoulder

Our shoulder experts at OrthoAspen utilize all resources to remedy these symptoms and get you back to the activities you love!


To determine if a rotator cuff tear has occurred, one of our skilled, expert OrthoAspen providers will conduct a physical examination, X-rays and imaging (such as an MRI).


If results confirm that a rotator cuff tear is present, your surgeon will discuss treatment options which include:

  • Rest
  • Shoulder sling
  • Pain medication injection of a steroid (cortisone) and a local anesthetic in the subacromial space of the affected shoulder to help decrease the inflammation and pain
  • Physical therapy

In the event the injury does not respond or is too extensive for the conservative therapies listed above, surgical options may be suggested.

Rotator cuff repair may be performed by open surgery or an arthroscopic procedure. In arthroscopy, the space for rotator cuff tendons will be increased and the cuff tear is repaired using suture anchors. These anchor sutures help in attaching the tendons to the shoulder bone. Following the surgery, you may be advised to practice motion and strengthening exercises.

If you’ve experienced any of the rotator cuff tear symptoms listed above, or would simply like to speak with one of our OrthoAspen orthopedic specialists, get started by clicking here or call us any time at 970-544-1289.

No matter what brings you to OrthoAspen, you can rest assured knowing you’re in the hands of the Aspen area’s leading orthopedic experts. We’ll try to get you out of pain as quickly and efficiently as possible!


Visit OrthoAspen in two convenient locations
Aspen Clinic
Aspen Valley Hospital
0401 Castle Creek Rd., Suite 2100,

Aspen, CO 81611
+(970) 544-1289
+(970) 544-1400
Basalt Clinic
Midvalley Medical Center
1450 E. Valley Rd., Suite 201,

Basalt, CO 81621
+(970) 544-1289
+(970) 544-1400