A rotator cuff injury involves irritation or tearing of the muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint. Damage can occur as a result of acute trauma, chronic overuse or the aging process, and typically causes significant pain along with reduced mobility and range of motion.
Although some mild injuries may improve with physical therapy, research proves that surgery is a highly effective means for preventing a recurrence.
Common Causes and Risk Factors of Shoulder Injuries
Most shoulder injuries of this nature occur from repetitive use, especially if you lift heavy weight above your head frequently. Bone spurs develop and cause damage and irritation to shoulder tendons. Most of these injuries occur in patients over the age of 40.
Baseball players, tennis players, weight lifters and archers are all familiar with this sports injury risk. Shoulder problems can also be hereditary, due to a genetic component in rotator cuff tears.
Symptoms and Diagnosis of Rotator Cuff Tears
For most people who suffer this injury, the tears develop gradually; however, they can also happen suddenly. An acute injury typically involves a sudden pop in the joint, accompanied by intense pain and muscle weakness. If the injury came on gradually, you may notice difficulty moving the joint, pain or tenderness, weakness or the inability to sleep on your shoulder.
To diagnose a muscle or tendon tear, your doctor will test your shoulder movement and flexibility. Additional tests, including X-rays, ultrasounds, MRIs or arthrograms, may be ordered to provide a clear picture of the injured area. Depending upon the severity of the damage, your doctor may recommend surgery as the most effective treatment option.
Rotator Cuff Treatment and Repair Surgery
Non-surgical treatment options can benefit non-traumatic rotator cuff injuries in some cases. This may involve medications, steroid injections and physical or occupational therapy. While these can reduce pain and improve mobility, your doctor may advise a surgical repair.
If your prognosis indicates that surgery is required, the surgeon will perform an arthroscopic procedure whenever possible. This involves inserting a tiny camera into the shoulder joint to closely examine the injured area.
Often, the torn tendon areas can be repaired or reattached to the bone during an arthroscopy. In rare cases, a larger incision may be necessary to perform open tendon repair. Following surgery, you will wear a sling, splint or brace for a few weeks. In most cases, physical therapy will also help to restore your shoulder’s movement.
The experienced orthopedic surgeons at Steward Health Care: Centers of Orthopedic & Sports Medicine in West Jordan, Utah, can diagnose the extent and severity of shoulder injuries and recommend the most effective and appropriate treatment options. Contact our office today to schedule a consultation if you have shoulder pain and suspect a possible rotator cuff injury.