Rotator Cuff Tear

Christopher Potts, M.D. -  - Orthopedic Surgeon

Christopher Potts, M.D.

Orthopedic Surgeon & Sports Medicine Specialist located in Midtown, Atlanta, GA & Alpharetta, GA

A rotator cuff tear makes even the simplest everyday tasks difficult or impossible because you can’t lift your shoulder. Christopher Potts, MD, and his team in Atlanta and Alpharetta, Georgia, evaluate your injury and use nonsurgical and surgical treatments to restore your ability to brush your hair, reach the top shelf, drive, and more. For more information about rotator cuff tear treatments, call the offices of board-certified orthopedic surgeon Dr. Potts, or book an appointment online today.

Rotator Cuff Tear Q & A

What is a rotator cuff? 

Within your shoulder, you have a ball-and-socket joint. The ball of the joint is the head of your humerus (upper arm bone), and the socket is a shallow cavity in your shoulder blade. The rotator cuff is an extremely important structure located within the shoulder joint that functions to stabilize your shoulder and allow overhead motions of the arm. A group of four tendons, collectively called your rotator cuff, cover the head of your humerus to attach it to your shoulder blade. The rotator cuff muscles include the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis and teres minor.


What is a rotator cuff tear?

A rotator cuff tear is a common injury that happens when you fray or tear one of the tendons in your rotator cuff. If any of these are injured, patients may experience shoulder pain and loss of motion. There are two main types of rotator cuff tears that happen in different ways:

  • Degenerative tear – The most common way to tear your rotator cuff is with a degenerative tear, which happens after the tendons in your rotator cuff get weaker with wear-and-tear over time. This is especially likely if you use repetitive motions at work or during a sport.
  • Acute tear – An acute rotator cuff tear typically happens suddenly during a traumatic injury. It can occur when you fall down and catch yourself with your arm, or even with lifting a very heavy object. You can also get an acute tear alongside another injury, like a shoulder or collarbone fracture. 


What are the symptoms of a rotator cuff tear?

Acute rotator cuff tears generally cause sharper and more severe pain than degenerative tears. Muscle weakness accompanies the pain, so you won’t be able to move your arm easily right after the tear happens. Degenerative tears typically cause these symptoms:

  • Dull aching
  • Increased pain at rest or at night
  • Pain with specific arm movements
  • Weakness or inability to lift your arm
  • A cracking sensation with certain movements

Even if your shoulder pain is mild, Dr. Potts can evaluate your injury and help you strengthen the tendons for a complete recovery.


How are rotator cuff tears treated?

Dr. Potts and the team closely examine your injury to make a diagnosis and choose the best form of treatment. Management of a rotator cuff tear depends on the severity of your injury and type of tear, as well as your age and activity level. Initial conservative treatment may consist of:

  • Rest
  • Activity modification
  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Physical therapy
  • Joint injections


If your pain persists and non-operative treatment fails to improve your symptoms, Dr. Potts may recommend a minimally invasive shoulder arthroscopy surgery to perform a rotator cuff repair. To find out if you have a rotator cuff tear and if it needs treatment, call Christopher Potts, MD, or book an appointment online today.