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Finding Your Way

Your Options for Treating Rotator
Cuff Tears

What's the best treatment for you?

It's a fact of life: As we get older, we're more likely to get hurt when we exercise or take on certain everyday tasks. Routine activities like playing tennis or placing items on shelves can result in a common problem the rotator cuff injury.

Tears in the rotator cuff are not a huge health setback. But they can limit movement and cause serious pain. There are several ways to treat rotator cuff tears, including surgical and nonsurgical treatments. You'll want to understand your options before you make a decision.

To help you, my agency, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), offers a guide called Treatment Options for Rotator Cuff Tears. It explains in plain language how this common, age-related injury is treated and the pros and cons of these treatments.

The good news is that most treatments work. But some options may be better for certain patients. Older or sicker patients, for example, often do better without surgery.

Knowing how your rotator cuff works helps you understand how it can be injured. The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles and tendons that hold the "ball" of your upper arm bone firmly in your shoulder socket. Your rotator cuff allows you to lift and rotate your arms. The tendons can tear much like a piece of leather. Sometimes, the tendon is only slightly damaged. Other times, the tendon suffers a complete tear, meaning that it has torn away from the bone.
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