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Rotator Cuff Tears: Partial or Complete Injury

What is the rotator cuff?

The rotator cuff muscles attach to the shoulder blade and turn into tendons that attach to the top of the arm bone (humerus) near the shoulder socket. When the rotator cuff muscles contract and pull on the tendons, the tendons then pull on the bone. This pull helps the arm (humerus) move.

There are four rotator cuff muscles and thus there are four rotator cuff tendons. The tendons are about 1 centimeter thick (as thick as your little finger) and about as wide as 2-3 centimeters (the width of two or three fingers). They attach to the humerus bone, around the top near the joint, and help the shoulder move.


What are the types of rotator cuff tears?

Types of torn rotator cuffs include:

  • Partial: With an incomplete or partial tear, the tendon still somewhat attaches to the arm bone.
  • Complete: With a full-thickness or complete tear, the tendon separates completely from the bone. There’s a hole or rip in the tendon.