Why do I have a frayed rotator cuff?

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The rotator cuff is a group of tendons in the shoulder that are responsible for stabilizing the shoulder. The rotator cuff tendons can become weakened and susceptible to becoming frayed or damaged especially due to the aging process. This can result to shoulder pain, diminished shoulder motion and swollen shoulder joint.

In most circumstances, the conservative treatment options are required but some cases might require surgical intervention. Individuals especially the elderly and those involved in high-intensity sports should understand the exact causes of a frayed rotator cuff.


Work-related injuries that require repeated overhead lifting, sport injuries that involve repetitive upper arm movement and disturbing injuries such as a vehicular accident can lead to a torn or frayed rotator cuff.

Always bear in mind that fraying occurs due to substantial force placed on the rotator cuff that increases the pressure on the tendons and results to tears on the tendon fibers. This form of injury generally results to the acute start of pain, swelling and diminished mobility in the shoulder.

Rotator cuff
This form of injury generally results to the acute start of pain, swelling and diminished mobility in the shoulder.

Aging process

Elderly individuals usually face a higher risk for ending up with a frayed rotator cuff. This occurs due to the wear-and-tear of the shoulder over time that can deteriorate the rotator cuff tendons and make them susceptible to fray or tear in the future.

The supraspinatus is the commonly affected. In such cases, conservative treatments are typically recommended unless the individuals require the use of the affected shoulder, especially for overhead movements. If the individual can complete daily functions, surgery is not required. Nevertheless, a suitable treatment plan must be created for the individual in order to fully relieve the symptoms of a frayed rotator cuff.

Shoulder impingement

When it comes to shoulder impingement, this is a typical reason for ending up with a frayed rotator cuff. After a given period, bone spurs usually grow under the shoulder blade as well as glide alongside the rotator cuff tendons mostly when the involved arm is raised.

Prolonged rubbing of the rotator cuff tendons can lead to the weakening of the tendons and cause them to be frayed which increases the risk of tearing in the future. The rotator cuff tendons have the capability to heal as long as allowed to rest, thus conservative treatment measures for shoulder impingement are preferred. In case the large-sized bone spurs are present in the shoulder, surgery might be required to remove these bone spurs in order to prevent future impingement from developing. The procedure is called as acromioplasty and the possible risks and benefits of the procedure should be carefully discussed between the individual and the doctor.

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