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Causes of Torn Rotator Cuff

A rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that keeps the upper head of the arm bone (humerus) in place within the socket of the shoulder blade. These muscles and tendons keep the joint shoulder mobile and allow for movements such as arm abduction (moving the arms away from the body) and rotation. 

Injuries and tears of the rotator cuff may happen because of an injury or because of the age-related, natural degeneration of tendons.



Several risk factors may lead to this condition, including smoking, poor posture, or a family history of shoulder injuries. Let’s look at some of the main causes of rotator cuff tears below. 


Injuries such as falling on your arm or shoulder and direct collisions may cause fractures or dislocations of the collarbone. Such traumatic events may cause the tendons in the rotator cuff to stretch beyond capacity and tear.

Age-Related Tendon Degeneration

Rotator cuff tears may arise from aging and are known as degenerative tears. These injuries develop over time as the soft tissue that constitutes the tendon degenerates and loses elasticity. The wear and tear of tendons is often linked to aging or overuse, putting people aged 40 and over at greater risk of developing this shoulder disorder. 

Overuse Due To Sports or Occupational Activities

Overuse or repeated stress over long periods of time may speed up the degeneration of tendons and soft tissues in the rotator cuff, thus making tears more likely. Some activities that may increase the risk of rotator cuff injuries include rowing, weight lifting, and playing sports such as tennis or baseball. 

You may also develop this condition if you perform actions that put excessive stress on your rotator cuff as part of your job. Painters, mechanics, construction workers, and carpenters are particularly at risk.

Reduced Blood Flow

Reduced blood flow to the rotator cuff can hinder the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the tendons that keep the shoulder stable and mobile. In time, this can reduce the tendons’ elasticity and make small tears more likely. What’s more, the reduced availability of oxygen and blood can slow down the healing process of tears and lead to even further damage. 

Bone Spurs

Bone spurs are often a natural consequence of the age-related degeneration of the cartilage. The cartilage is the “cushioning” that allows the joint’s bones to glide against one another during movement and protect them from friction damage. As we get older or we develop inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, the cartilage becomes thinner or unable to absorb shock. 

In an attempt to counteract the loss of cartilage, the body produces bony tissue which, over time, causes bone spurs. These can alter the shoulder joint’s structure and start pressing on the surrounding muscles and tendons, causing inflammation, irritation, and tears.

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Symptoms of Torn Rotator Cuff

Depending on the severity of the tear, you are likely to experience severe pain or reduced mobility. Tears in the rotator cuff are categorized as follows:

  • Partial tears: partial tears occur when the tendon is slightly torn, but still attaches to the bone.
  • Complete tear: complete or full-thickness tears occur when the tendon separates entirely from the bone. Most complete tears require surgery. 

Rotator cuff tears are only symptomatic in just over a third of cases, but this doesn’t mean that this condition should not be immediately addressed! If you suffer from degenerative tears, the symptoms can worsen over time and severely inhibit your range of movement as you age. What’s more, untreated rotator cuff tears can lead to severe complications such as deterioration of the shoulder joint, loss of shoulder function, weakness, or conditions such as frozen shoulder. 

Below, we’ll look at the telltale signs that indicate that you may be suffering from a rotator cuff tear. 

Shoulder Pain That Intensifies When Moving Your Arm

Although patients with minor tears may not experience severe symptoms, the shoulder pain deriving from this condition is bound to intensify alongside the progressive degeneration of the tendons. These painful sensations, which are often associated with inflammation and muscle irritation, can worsen when moving your arm or lying on the affected shoulder.  

Nighttime Discomfort

One of the main symptoms of a torn rotator cuff is pain that intensifies at nighttime. This happens because you are lying or rolling onto the affected shoulder, or because there are fewer distractions when you are trying to fall asleep. Because of this complication, only around 11% of people with a symptomatic rotator cuff tear report not having sleep disturbances. 

Shoulder And Arm Weakness

A severe rotator cuff tear can make movements painful and undesirable, and prevent you from moving your arms as you normally would. This can lead to sensations of weakness and inhibit your ability to lift things. 

Difficulty Raising Your Arm

The rotator cuff plays an essential role in enabling arm movements, such as abduction or moving the arms away from the body. Injuries such as partial or complete tears can affect the ability of tendons to support these movements, which may result in difficulty raising your arm. 

Clicking and Popping Noises

Clicking or popping noises – a symptom known as “crepitus” – happen as a consequence of structural alterations in the shoulder joint. If the tendons are torn, they may not be able to move as they should and start slapping from one bony surface to another during movement, thus causing “popping” noises.

Regenerative Treatment Options for Rotator Cuff Injury

In the best-case scenario, minor rotator cuff tears may heal on their own with physical therapy or treatments such as R.I.C.E (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation). However, in most cases, patients face the prospect of taking pain medications and using steroid injections for 12 months or longer. 

If the tendon is completely torn from the bone, you may even need to undergo invasive procedures, such as shoulder replacement or arthroscopic surgery.

These lines of treatment come with severe side effects – including dependency – and long rehabilitation periods. 

Fortunately, advances in orthopedic regenerative medicine are providing today’s patients with a third, non-invasive and non-surgical option: regenerative orthopedics. Here are the procedures combined at Orthagenex to offer patients individualized treatment programs for shoulder pain.

Super-Concentrated PRP for Rotator Cuff Tears

Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) refers to autologous blood samples that have been processed to have platelet concentrations that are 10-30 times higher than baseline levels using lab setting. The use of PRP in regenerative medicine has received significant interest, due to its ability to deliver high concentrations of growth factors precisely and non-invasively to an area in need – in this case, the site of the tear in the rotator cuff(s).

PRP procedures involve injecting the body’s own healing factors (platelets) into the injured tissue using image guidance with fluoroscopy and MSK ultrasound. This procedure can be used to treat a variety of orthopedic conditions, including joint instability, minor arthritis, ligament, and tendon injuries, and strains.

More than 30 randomized controlled trials have been carried out on the effectiveness of PRP to support the body’s ability to heal naturally by stimulating the cells within the targeted area.

Image Guided Stem Cell Injections for Torn Rotator Cuff Using Bone Marrow Concentrate Stem Cells

Stem cells are an essential component of the human body and play an important role in the repair of injured bones, ligaments, tendons, and other tissues. However, when we age or suffer an injury, the body may become unable to deliver enough stem cells to the area in need.

To help with this, bone marrow concentrate procedures at Orthagenex use imaging guidance to deliver concentrated bone marrow containing stem cells to the area in need. This encourages the body’s inherent ability to heal itself by replenishing the stem cell population in the injured area.

In practice, bone marrow concentrate procedures are carried out by cannulating the bone near the pelvis with a trocar, a sharp-tipped device. This provides a narrow tunnel that can be used to collect samples of the bone marrow’s liquid component, which is rich in stem cells.

BMC procedures can assist patients in improving their shoulder health and mobility without the lengthy and painful rehabilitation periods associated with surgery.

Skip the Rotator Cuff Repair Surgery. Get Your Shoulder Treated with Stem Cell Therapy.

Rotator cuff tears are as common as they are debilitating. While medications may provide short-term relief, they expose patients to unnecessary side effects, including dependency. Fortunately, resorting to pain medications, steroid injections, or surgery is no longer the only option. 

If you are ready to regain your shoulder health and mobility, the regenerative treatments offered at Orthagenex can help.

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