Surrounding the shoulder joint are the tendons of the rotator cuff. Tendons are where muscles attach to bone. Muscle pulling on bones through tendons produces movement at joints.
The rotator cuff is composed of 4 tendons – subscapularis (at the front), supraspinatus (on the top) and infraspinatus and teres minor (at the back).
Rotator cuff tears can occur acutely following trauma, or as a result of degeneration in the older age group. The tendon pulls away from its insertion site on the bone. Tears do not heal on their own. Small tears may be compensated for by the remaining intact tendons, and as such, a period of physiotherapy is usually recommended, prior to considering surgery.
If ongoing symptoms are problematic, then surgery may be recommended. The aim of surgery is to reattach the tendon firmly to the bone. This allows your body’s natural healing process to occur.
Most repairs can be done through arthroscopic (keyhole) surgery, involving 3-5 small cuts. Sometimes a larger incision is required. The repair is performed using strong suture material which is passed through the tendon and then brought down to the bone using a number of ‘anchors’ which are screwed into the bone.