The rotator cuff is a group of tendons that hold the shoulder joint in place. The rotator cuff lets people lift their arm and reach overhead. In a lot of people, wear and tear of the rotator cuff tendons is a normal part of ageing and they may not have symptoms. However many people will develop pain in their shoulder at some time as the tendons degenerate further and tears in the rotator cuff tendons develop. There may also be inflammation of the shoulder tendons or bursa (another part of the shoulder that helps it move). Often the pain is made worse by sleeping on the affected shoulder and moving the shoulder in certain directions. Often there will be pressure on the tendons by the overlying bone when lifting the arm up. This is called impingement. It may become difficult to use the shoulder in every day activities, sports or work.
To diagnose rotator cuff disease, a doctor will examine your shoulder and ask you questions about your ability to move it, and the situations that cause pain.
If the pain does not go away by itself or with various treatments like steroid injections or physiotherapy or both, surgery can be performed. Surgery on your rotator cuff may include removing part of your bone to take the pressure off the rotator cuff tendons (acromioplasty), removing any swollen or inflamed bursa (the small sack of fluid around the joint), and removing any damaged tissue to help heal the remaining tissue. This is called a 'decompression'. If one of the tendons of the rotator cuff is torn, the doctor might use special stitches to repair it. This is called a 'repair'.
Some procedures can be performed arthroscopically (surgical instruments are inserted through a small incision or key hole and an endoscope to visualise the area and to guide the doctor is inserted through another incision), which can mean a shorter recovery time.