Rotator Cuff: Treating the Tears
Your rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons on your shoulder blade that connect to your upper arm bone. When the tendons of your rotator cuff tear, it can limit your ability to lift and rotate your arm.
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), rotator cuff tears are the most common cause of pain and disability among adults. Most rotator cuff tears are due to the natural wear and tear of the muscles and tendons from aging. Other causes can be due to an injury, such as falling or being hit in the shoulder, and by overuse of the muscles and tendons from activities that include lifting, painting and throwing.
Tears of the rotator cuff aren’t life-threatening, but can limit movement and cause severe pain. Even small shoulder and arm movements, like combing your hair, putting on a coat, or lifting groceries, can be difficult and cause pain. People may also experience swelling from the inflammation of the tendons, which can be the most common cause of pain. Also, those with rotator cuff tears may hear a clicking, cracking or popping sound when moving the shoulder, especially when lifting something heavy.
Patients can be treated for rotator cuff injuries non-surgically and surgically. In most cases, nonsurgical treatment can provide pain relief and improve the function of the shoulder. Nonsurgical treatments would include rest and limited overhead activity, the use of a sling, anti-inflammatory medication, steroid injections, strengthening exercises and physical therapy.
According to the AAOS, your orthopedic surgeon may recommend surgery if nonsurgical treatment does not relieve symptoms, the tear has just occurred and is very painful, the tear is in the shoulder of the dominant arm of an active person, or if maximum strength in the arm is needed for overhead work or sports. If surgery is necessary, it can be done arthroscopically (inserting a scope and small instruments through a very small incision under video control), mini-open repair (repairing through a small incision, typically 4 to 6 cm), and open surgical repair (traditional open surgical incision).
To schedule an appointment within 48 hours with a Crozer-Keystone orthopedic surgeon, call 1-877-CK-MOTION or visit here. Reviewed by Jack Kazanjian, D.O., DCMH orthopedic surgeon and shoulder specialist. He has an office location in Havertown, and can be reached at (610) 449-6499.