Diagnosis and Management of Partial Thickness Rotator Cuff Tears

A Comprehensive Review

Kevin D. Plancher, MD, MPH; Jaya Shanmugam, MD; Karen Briggs, MPH; Stephanie C. Petterson, MPT, PhD


J Am Acad Orthop Surg. 2021;29(24):1031-1043. 

In This Article

Clinical Presentation

Clinical diagnosis of PRCTs is based on a thorough history and physical and radiologic examination. Although many PRCTs are asymptomatic, pain and limited shoulder motion lead patients to seek medical advice. Symptoms can vary from complaints of chronic night pain, pain exacerbated with overhead activities, decreased throwing velocity, and deep posterior shoulder pain with fatigue. Bursal-sided tears are often more painful than articular-sided tears.[16] The clinical symptoms of intratendinous tears mimic a FTT or painful bursal-sided tear. Onset of pain is usually insidious; however, some patients may experience a pop in the shoulder, which could be indicative of an acute tear. New onset shoulder pain in an incidentally diagnosed asymptomatic PRCT or an increase in pain in an already symptomatic patient may indicate tear enlargement.[13]