• By Jason Howland

Mayo Clinic Minute: When is rotator cuff surgery right for you?

September 25, 2018

A torn rotator cuff doesn't happen to only professional athletes. It's a common cause of shoulder pain for many adults. And there are several ways to treat it, including surgery.

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Have pain in your upper arm near your shoulder? It might be an injured rotator cuff.

"The rotator cuff consists of four muscles that turn into tendons that insert in your shoulder that help you raise the arm in the air," says Dr. John Sperling, a Mayo Clinic orthopedic surgeon.

Dr. Sperling says the tissue tends to degenerate as you age and eventually can lead to a tear in the tendon. Medication, injection and physical therapy are the first lines of treatment. But if the pain persists, surgery is the next option.

"The rotator cuff tear is like a hole in a pair of pants. It's not going to heal itself on its own," says Dr. Sperling. "So what the surgery involves is making three or four little incisions on the shoulder or one smaller incision on the top, [and] sewing down the rotator cuff ... to the area where it tore off the bone."

Another trend, particularly for large tears and those with arthritis, is reverse shoulder replacement surgery.

"The concept is to put the ball where the cup is and the cup where the ball is," says Dr. Sperling. "So you actually reverse the joint."

Dr. Sperling says most patients experience between 90 to 95 percent pain relief after surgery.

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