The rotator cuff, a structure within the shoulder joint composed of four muscle-tendon units, plays an important role in joint function by helping stabilize the shoulder throughout activities of daily living, as well as allowing overhead arm movements for sports and other activities. A shoulder injury to the rotator cuff is usually characterized by a separation or “tearing” of a tendon from its attachment site on the humerus (upper arm bone). A rotator cuff tear can be complete or a tear can be incomplete, or partial. Dr. Jonathan Ticker, shoulder specialist, is highly trained and experienced in treating partial thickness tears in Long Island, Brooklyn, Queens and NYC area patients so they can return to athletic activities.

The rotator cuff is a thick, strong structure so a partial rotator cuff tear is more common than a complete tear, even in the athletic community. Often referred to as a partial thickness tear, this shoulder injury can be caused by a traumatic event, such as a fall or direct hit during sporting activities, or the natural degeneration process. Over time, repetitive stress and aging can cause a tendon to wear thin and change its structure. As degeneration continues with normal, everyday or sporting activities, the tendon may begin lifting away from its attachment site on the upper arm bone, leading to a partial tear.

Symptoms of a Partial Rotator Cuff Tear

A partial rotator cuff tear is marked by shoulder pain and weakness. The pain associated with this shoulder injury is typically located over the top of the shoulder and arm, sometimes traveling down towards the elbow. Shoulder weakness and pain may cause certain patients to experience difficulty in lifting the arm overhead.  Sleep and other activities can be affected.

Diagnosis of a Partial Rotator Cuff Tear

In order to diagnose a partial thickness tear, Dr. Ticker will perform a physical examination to assess areas of pain and tenderness, as well as strength and mobility. He may also perform imaging tests, initially including x-rays, or he may recommend an MRI, to view the affected joint in great detail and to determine tear location and severity.

Treatment of a Partial Rotator Cuff Tear


The majority of patients, even athletes, with a partial rotator cuff tear will be prescribed a non-operative treatment plan. Dr. Ticker commonly recommends rest, modified activities, anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) and a physical therapy program. Physical therapy will help restore and maintain normal shoulder function and will address the symptoms associated with this shoulder injury.  A steroid injection may be considered under certain circumstances.


If non-surgical treatment measures fail, Dr. Ticker may recommend an arthroscopic shoulder surgery. He will select the appropriate surgical procedure based on the location and severity of the tendon tear. Surgical options often include debridement or repairing the torn tendon. Debridement involves trimming out the torn portion and smoothing out the damaged area, while a rotator cuff repair involves repairing the torn tendon and reattaching to its attachment site.

If you have experienced a shoulder injury, such as a partial rotator cuff tear, you are encouraged to contact the Long Island, Brooklyn, Queens and NYC area orthopedic office of Dr. Jonathan Ticker, shoulder specialist and orthopedic surgeon.