What is a rotator cuff tear?

The rotator cuff is a group of muscles within the shoulder. Their tendons attach to the head of the humerus. The rotator cuff is an important structure for both shoulder movement and shoulder stability, and injury to it can lead to loss of function and pain. Rotator cuff tears can be either traumatic – secondary to an injury such as shoulder dislocation, or degenerative – due to gradual wear and tear and weakening of the tendons.

What are the symptoms of a rotator cuff tear?

Some people may have significant tears without experiencing any symptoms. However, others may suffer from pain, particularly with arms held out from the body. They may also have significant weakness and loss of function. Patients with very large tears can also suffer from instability and eventually develop arthritis.

How is it diagnosed?

Rotator cuff tears are diagnosed by taking a careful history and performing a detailed examination. Weakness can be determined in specific muscles within the rotator cuff by specific tests. X-rays may show chronic signs, however, rotator cuff tears are best visualised with an MRI scan or Ultrasound scan assessment. These can help to determine the size, degree of retraction and whether the tear is old or new, which may affect the ability of the tear to be repaired.

How is it treated?

Treatment can begin with symptomatic management with pain killers and physiotherapy to maintain movement and muscle strength. Targeted shoulder injections can aid physiotherapy and help to reduce the pain associated with rotator cuff tears.

Although rotator cuff tears will not heal themselves without surgery, some patients will avoid surgery with the above techniques by controlling the pain and strengthening other muscle groups such as the deltoid muscle.

When surgical intervention is required, rotator cuff repairs can be performed both by the arthroscopic route and through an open procedure. Depending on the function, size of tear and degree of retraction different procedures will be required to lead to the highest chance of success. The decision on the best method of treatment are made following an informed discussion with your surgeon. These operations can lead to a significant improvement in a patient’s quality of life.

If you or someone you know has suffered an injury or is experiencing pain in their shoulder or difficulty with moving the shoulder, arm or elbow and would like a consultant-led review, please contact us. Grosvenor Orthopaedics have extensive experience in the treatment of ACJ injuries with excellent patient outcomes.


Grosvenor Orthopaedics have extensive experience in the treatment of should & elbow -related injuries with excellent patient outcomes.


If you would like to learn about other shoulder & elbow conditions click the button below to find out more


If you would like to learn about other shoulder & elbow treatments click the button below to find out more

our specialist shoulder and elbow consultants

Shoulder and Elbow care at Grosvenor Orthopaedics is led by our consultant surgeons Mr W James White and Mr David Butt, both graduates of London medical colleges. They bring extensive experience to Grosvenor Orthopaedics having worked across Guys NHS Trust and the world renowned Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital.

Our team have broad experience in the successful treatment of a range of shoulder and elbow problems, addressing both young and sports related injuries as well as those relating to trauma, disease process and genetics.

Patients who choose Grosvenor Orthopaedic Partners for their treatment will receive some of the best care available in the UK. Our team are leading consultants across London’s shoulder and elbow clinics and offer specialist care to our private patients through King Edward’s Hospital, HCA Lister and other major private hospitals in central London.

Our team are well placed to manage and treat a diverse range of shoulder and elbow problems utilising cutting edge diagnostic technology and treatment approaches, both surgical and conservative. Below is an overview of some of the conditions we treat but for a more thorough understanding please contact our team here


Consultant Shoulder and Elbow Surgeon

FRCS(Tr&Orth), MBBS, BSc(Hons)
James is a Consultant Shoulder and Elbow Surgeon, practising at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, King Edward VII’s, The Lister Hospital Chelsea and HCA Chiswick Outpatient Clinic. His practice encompasses all aspects of shoulder and elbow surgery including arthroscopy, arthroplasty and trauma. He has a reputation as a thorough clinician, effective communicator and skilled surgeon. Through joint decision-making with the patient and utilising non-operative techniques where possible, he achieves the best possible outcomes for patients. When surgery is required, James has excellent outcomes based on his precise and prepared approach to operating.


Consultant Shoulder and Elbow Surgeon

FRCS(Tr&Orth), MSc, MBBS, BSc(Hons)
David is a Consultant Shoulder and Elbow Surgeon, practising at the world-renowned Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital Stanmore, King Edward VII’s Hospital and One Hatfield. His practice involves all aspects of shoulder and elbow surgery, from minor injuries to complex reconstructive procedures. He strongly believes in shared decision making and a patient-centred approach to treatment. He is a meticulous surgeon using up to date and evidence-based techniques to treat every patient’s individual needs.

What some of our patients say

Miss NN

Thank you and please accept my gratitude for a successful knee surgery and overall a very positive experience. This gold medal is for you!