Learn more about rotator cuff injuries and treatment options

The latest information on rotator cuff injuries and common treatment options.

Learn More about Rotator Cuff Injuries and Treatment Options

Our bodies are tough, there’s no question. If you stop and think about how much stress and tension you put them under on a regular basis, it’s a wonder that we can go years before the wear and tear catches up to us. Unfortunately, for many people, that wear and tear does eventually come at a cost and painful conditions need to be managed.

We don’t think about how far we push our bodies until something goes wrong. Athletes and people with physically demanding jobs can really attest to this, though anyone can suffer the effects of years of overuse.

Our shoulders in particular can be problematic as we get older. Certainly, this is the case if a sudden injury occurs. If you’ve ever suffered a shoulder injury, you know how debilitating they can be. You also know how long the rehabbing process can be, if it’s even fully successful. Receiving the proper care is so critical to recovering from a shoulder injury.

One of the worst things you can hear your doctor tell you after looking at imaging testing results is “It’s a torn rotator cuff.” Those dreaded words can often mean surgery and a long recovery. That is, if you don’t get the proper care. Arthroscopic rotator cuff repair can help minimize complications and greatly increase your chances of a successful recovery.

Here is what you need to know about rotator cuff injuries and recovering from them.

Learning about the rotator cuff

The shoulder is a ball and socket joint, so it’s made up of a few parts. The rotator cuff in particular is made up of four muscles and associated tendons that surround the joint. These muscles help keep your shoulder in its socket. When a tear occurs, the shoulder may not align or move properly in the joint, which is where the pain and difficulty of motion comes from.

How do people hurt their rotator cuffs?

Many people injure their rotator cuffs as a result of an injury, usually sports related. However, it can also happen if you fall a certain way or experience something like a car accident. Any event that over stretches or rapidly twists the joint can lead to an acute tear of the muscles or tendons in the area. This is why baseball pitchers are so susceptible to rotator cuff injuries. Some people may develop tears due to degeneration from years of wear and tear. Repetitive motions made for years at a time can cause injuries to slowly develop. This kind of tear is generally seen in people over 40.

What are the symptoms of an injured rotator cuff?

If you tear your rotator cuff in an injury, like a fall or in sports related contact, the pain is acute and intense. The injury is often characterized by a sensation of snapping in the arm that feels unnatural from how the shoulder usually moves. You’ll also experience weakness immediately in the upper arm by the shoulder.

If wear and tear leads to your rotator cuff injury, the pain may be duller and intensified when lifting or lowering your arm. Weakness in the arm and crackling when moving may occur. You may also have difficulty staying asleep due to your arm.

Treatment options

Some people respond well to anti-inflammatory medication, steroid injections, and physical therapy if the tear is minor and the tear was the result of years of wear and tear. The majority of people, however, require surgery because the tears are more severe and the result of a sudden injury which would create an intense, acute pain. Many of the traditional methods of surgery had poor success rates, with many patients reporting long rehabilitation and a lackluster increase in mobility.

Arthroscopic rotator cuff repair is markedly more effective. One of the great things about it is it isn’t so traumatic of a surgery. Instead of needing to open up the shoulder, only a small incision is required in order for the surgeon to perform the procedure. A small camera is inserted into the incision, which gives the surgeon full visibility of the area. The instruments can then also be passed into that incision to perform the necessary repairs. This minimally invasive procedure allows for a faster recovery time, less scarring, and a reduced risk of complications like post-operative stiffness or infection. This is an outpatient procedure.

Conclusion

Shoulder injuries can be difficult to navigate without the proper care. They are complex and the healing process can be particular. A rotator cuff injury can be seriously limiting if you don’t get it treated. If you are currently experiencing shoulder pain that is limiting your range of motion and making sleep difficult, it’s time to speak with a medical professional that has the necessary expertise to successfully treat your rotator cuff injury. Book an appointment online today. The team at Austin Shoulder Institute are here to provide you with the cutting-edge treatments necessary to successfully repair your shoulder.

AUTHOR

Dr. Benjamin Szerlip is a fellowship trained Orthopedic Surgeon. He specializes in arthroscopic and reconstructive surgery of the shoulder and knee including joint replacement, rotator cuff repair, and other sports medicine injuries. He utilizes the most recent and minimally invasive techniques including hip replacement through an anterior approach. Dr. Szerlip also provides services in fracture care, and general orthopedics.
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