Difference between rotator cuff tear and shoulder tendonitis

A rotator cuff is a group of four muscles and tendons that attach the shoulder blade to the upper arm. These muscles and tendons act to stabilise the shoulder joint and enable the arm to move in a wide range of motions. The rotator cuff muscles are located at the top of the shoulder and attach to the scapula or shoulder blade. The four muscles of the rotator cuff are the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis. The tendons of these muscles attach to the humerus or upper arm bone.

The rotator cuff muscles and tendons are responsible for a number of important functions. They stabilize the shoulder joint and keep the head of the humerus in the socket of the scapula. They enable the arm to move in a wide range of motions. The rotator cuff muscles are particularly important in overhead motions of the arm, such as throwing a ball. The rotator cuff muscles and tendons help to absorb shock and distribute forces evenly throughout the shoulder joint.

Shoulder Pain – rotator cuff tear vs shoulder tendinitis

There is a high probability that many people experience shoulder pain at some point in their lives, whether it might be due to repetitive motion, extending the shoulder beyond the range or an injury source. However, when this chronic pain does not ease, it can have a significant negative impact on your daily life. In order to treat the problem, it is important to identify the problem source.

There are multiple causes of shoulder pain. The rotator cuff, which is often susceptible to tears or a condition known as tendonitis, is one potential source of problems. Knowing about these two problems will help you and your doctor have a reasonable discussion about possible treatment options.

Rotator Cuff Tear

The rotator cuff of the shoulder can be damaged in a number of ways. The most common type of injury is a tear in one of the tendons. A rotator cuff tear is a tear in one of the four muscles or tendons of the rotator cuff.  

The most common cause of a rotator cuff tear is degeneration or wear and tear of the tendons and muscles of the shoulder. Other causes include injury and overuse. The rotator cuff can be torn either partially or fully.

Partial tear: A partial rotator tear is a tear in one or more rotator cuff muscles that does not extend completely through the tendon. It is also called an incomplete tear.

Full-thickness tear: When the tendon completely separates from the bone, it is called a complete tear.

Pain is the most common symptom of a rotator cuff tear and it may become worse at night or when you try to lift your arm. Other symptoms may include weakness, popping or grinding sensation, and a decrease in range of motion. Rotator cuff tears can be treated with rest, ice, and pain relievers. Physical therapy may also be needed. In general, full-thickness tears require surgery more often than partial tears.

Shoulder tendonitis

It is also known as rotator cuff tendonitis, bicipital tendonitis and supraspinatus tendonitis.

Shoulder tendonitis, also called shoulder tendinitis is a condition that causes due to irritation or inflammation of the rotator cuff shoulder muscles. Depending on the severity of the inflammation, it can be mild to severe. In some cases, the tendon might be tangled under the acromion due to acute inflammation, which may result in excruciating chronic pain.

The condition is caused by the overuse of the shoulder joint and sleeping for longer hours on your shoulder. The condition is often seen in athletes who participate in sports that involve overhead activities like tennis, baseball, and cricket etc. 

Some shoulder tendinitis are named after the sports which they play like tennis shoulder tendinitis, pitcher’s shoulder tendinitis, and swimmer’s shoulder.

Sometimes, rotator cuff tendonitis has no obvious cause.  


Most tears and tendonitis cases can be effectively treated non-surgically with techniques like taking rest, physical therapy, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), strengthening exercises, steroid injection injections etc.  

There are a few different surgical options for rotator cuff tendinosis. One option is to repair the tendon. This involves stitching the tendon back to the bone. Another option is to remove the damaged portion of the tendon. This is called tendon debridement. The last option is to fuse the shoulder joint. This is done by surgically removing the damaged portion of the tendon and then attaching the remaining tendon to the bone.

Typically, doctors try not to treat rotator cuff tendinosis with surgery, unless it requires. Whereas severe rotator cuff tears require surgery to to heal properly. To know more detailed information about treatment call +91 98499 82203 and book your appointment Dr. Ajay Tiwari. He is one of the best orthopaedic surgeon for shoulder problems in Hyderabad.


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