rotator cuff

Three bones form the shoulder joint: the collarbone, the upper arm bone, and the shoulder blade. Together, these bones give the shoulder its wide range of motion.  Attached to the shoulder is a group of muscles known collectively as the rotator cuff. These keep your arm in place while allowing it to move up and around.

Rotator Cuff Disease or Injury Symptoms

In general, rotator cuff injuries can cause the following symptoms:

  • Shoulder pain, which can vary from mild to severe
  • Shoulder or upper arm pain that awakens you at night
  • Shoulder weakness
  • Difficulty raising and dropping the arm
  • Clicking sound when you move the shoulder

Rotator Cuff Disease Care

If you suffer from a rotator cuff injury or condition, you need experienced surgeons who specialize in shoulder disorders to care for you. The orthopedic surgeons at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital are all fellowship trained in shoulder surgery and focus exclusively on shoulders. No matter how complex your injury or condition, we have the skills and the expertise to find an effective solution for you. As leaders in the field, we develop advanced new surgical methods and even teach surgical procedures to surgeons around the country.

Whenever possible, we offer you minimally invasive surgical techniques, which use smaller incisions and sophisticated instruments to repair your injury with a faster, less painful recovery than traditional surgery. We also specialize in innovative procedures including arthroscopic rotator cuff repair.

We spend time with you and your family to explain your condition and develop a treatment plan that will be most effective for you.  Eliminating your pain and helping you feel healthy and strong once again is our priority.

Rotator Cuff Injury Diagnosis

The orthopedic surgeons at Georgetown are experts at diagnosing rotator cuff injuries. Our initial exam seeks to rule out other causes of your pain, and generally includes:

  • Taking your medical history – This includes asking questions about when your pain began, what makes the pain feels most severe, and if you have had other injuries in the affected location. Other questions may be about whether you have other medical problems and if you take any medications.
  • Physical exam – Your orthopedist will examine your shoulder to check for areas of sensitivity, determine your arm strength, and your shoulder flexibility.
  • Imaging tests – Your orthopedist may want to examine the bones and joints themselves using a variety of imaging techniques, including:
    • X-ray, which can help determine if you have a bone spur, which is a growth on the bones that can cause inflammation
    • Ultrasound, which uses sound waves to create a picture of your shoulder tissues, and can show inflammation and tears
    • MRI, which uses powerful magnets and computer technology to create a picture of your shoulder tissues that may indicate the size and age of your rotator cuff tear

Rotator Cuff Disease and Injuries

Tendonitis, Tendonosis and Bursitis

Tendonitis and bursitis, both inflammatory conditions, are the most common causes of shoulder pain and stiffness. They can result from repetitive motion, such as in sports, or from a serious, sudden injury. The conditions are most common in adults older than 40, as the tendons have aged and are more susceptible to injury.

  • Tendonitis occurs when tendons in the rotator cuff become inflamed or irritated.
  • Tendiniosis occurs when damage to the tendon develops over time from a previous injury or injuries that did not heal completely.
  • Bursitis occurs when the fluid-filled sac that protects the space between tendons and bones becomes inflamed or irritated.

Tendonitis and Bursitis Treatment

Treatment goals include reducing pain and inflammation. Physical therapy is essential in the treatment of rotator cuff inflammation. . A physician may also recommend a  corticosteroid injections for pain relief, and in the most severe cases, perform surgery. Learn more about the surgical offerings at MedStar Georgetown Orthopaedics.

Rotator Cuff Tear

Rotator cuff tears are a common cause of shoulder pain and disability in adults and can seriously inhibit many daily activities, like combing your hair or getting dressed. This type of injury typically results from a wearing down of the tendon, which occurs slowly over time, but it can also be caused by a sudden trauma. 

There are two types of rotator cuff tears:

  • Partial thickness tear – The tendon  tissue frays, but does not completely tear
  • Full thickness tear – The tendon  tissue tears into two pieces

Some common symptoms of rotator cuff tears include:

  • Pain in the shoulder and arm
  • Weakness and tenderness in the shoulder
  • Limited range of motion and pain, especially when raising and lowering your arm
  • Snapping or cracking sensation when moving the shoulder
  • Inability to rest or sleep on the affected shoulder due to pain

Rotator Cuff Tear Treatment 

Treatment for rotator cuff tears often begins with physical therapy.   In the most severe cases, surgery is necessary. When surgery is necessary, our surgeon specialize in minimally invasive arthroscopic rotator cuff repair.


Rotator Cuff Injury Treatment at Georgetown

The orthopedists at Georgetown have specialized expertise in treating rotator cuff injuries. We aim to ease your pain and restore your strength and range of motion. We offer the following treatments options:   

  • Avoiding activities that cause your pain
  • Icing the painful area nightly
  • Getting injections of steroids or anti-inflammatory medications
  • Physical therapy, including stretching and stretching exercises designed to restore strength and range of motion in your arm and shoulder
  • Anthroscopy: Rotator cuff repair.

Learn more about rotator cuff conditions at MedStar Orthopaedic Institute.

Make an Appointment

For more information or to schedule an appointment with a shoulder specialist, call our scheduling line. 

Phone: 855-546-2098

Shoulder Specialist

brent wiesel
Brent B. Wiesel, MD