A rotator cuff tear is a common shoulder injury that doesn’t always have obvious symptoms. Sometimes it might cause pain, but other times symptoms may present as weakness in the shoulder or poor shoulder mobility. Let’s take a closer look at exactly what this injury is and how to treat it before it turns into something more serious.
Your rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that come together as tendons to form a covering around the head of your upper arm bone (the humerous). The top of the humerous fits into a shallow socket in the shoulder blade. The rotator cuff attaches the humerous to the shoulder blade and helps to lift and rotate your arm.
There are two types of rotator cuff tear:
Either type of rotator cuff injury can occur due to normal wear and tear over a person’s lifetime. Those whose occupation requires repetitive arm motions or athletes who play sports such as tennis or baseball may be at increased risk for rotator cuff tears. Of course, you could also experience a tear more suddenly if you lift something that’s too heavy or fall on your arm, for example.
You may not always feel pain right away, so it’s important to pay attention to these other more subtle symptoms of a torn rotator cuff:
If you experience any of these symptoms, especially after a fall or other type of arm injury, then be sure to go see an orthopedist who specializes in sports medicine.
To determine if you have a torn rotator cuff, your doctor will perform a physical examination to assess your pain levels and arm mobility. If further information is needed, then your doctor may send you for an MRI, an x-ray, or an ultrasound. Each of these tests will show your doctor the extent of the damage in your shoulder and if any surrounding tissue is damaged as well.
You doctor will usually start treatment with physical therapy, which can help strengthen your shoulder muscles. You may also take over-the-counter pain medications and anti-inflammatory drugs as directed by your doctor.
If these non-invasive treatments don’t work, then your doctor may recommend surgery to repair the tear or reattach the tendon to the bone.
There are three types of rotator cuff surgery:
After rotator cuff tear surgery, you’ll wear a sling for 4 to 6 weeks. Your doctor may recommend that you do the following to help your recovery:
If you are experiencing shoulder pain, or you think you might have a rotator cuff tear, then contact Dr. James Parolie at Somerset Orthopedic & Sports Medicine. Dr. Parolie specializes in sports injuries and arthroscopic surgery. Call 908-425-4990 to schedule an appointment today.