When one or more of the rotator cuff tendons are partially or completely torn, the tendon is no longer fully attached to the humerus. An acute tear can be caused by a fall or lifting something too heavy. A degenerative tear is the result of wear and tear over time caused by repeating the same motion. Symptoms include pain and weakness when lifting, lowering or rotating the arm, and crepitus (cracking, grinding, crunching sounds) when moving the shoulder.
What is a Rotator Cuff Injury?
Rotator cuff injuries range in severity from tendon inflammation to complete tears. Patients often complain of a dull ache deep in the shoulder, weakness, and a severely reduced range of motion. If left untreated, these injuries can lead to permanent stiffness, weakness, or progressive degeneration of the muscles and tendons.
Wear and tear is the most cause of rotator cuff injury, and typically occurs in patients over 40 years old, tennis and baseball players, and construction workers. However, rotator cuff injuries may also have a genetic factor, as many patients have a family history of shoulder problems.
Common Causes of Rotator Cuff Injuries:
- Immediate Injury — Sometimes a one-time shoulder injury is severe enough to tear or completely sever tendons. This type of damage usually requires immediate treatment.
- Gradual Wear and Tear — Repetitive arm motion can degrade tissue until painful symptoms arise.
- Bone Spur Development — The shoulder blade or clavicle can develop extraneous new bone growth, which can irritate the tendons and muscles.
Rotator Cuff Treatment Options
Rest, ice, and physical therapy can play a major role in recovery. Physical therapy can restore flexibility and strength. In some cases, these solutions eliminate pain and restore function completely.
If these treatments are ineffective and pain is interfering with sleep or daily routines, steroid injections into the shoulder joint can help. However, overuse of steroids can contribute to tendon weakening, so this treatment is used sparingly.
If conservative treatment fails to provide relief, your tendon may be partially or completely detached from the upper arm bone. In this case, a surgical procedure may be recommended to reattach the damaged tendon.
Recovery From Rotator Cuff Surgery
After surgery, patients may need to wear an immobilizer for up to six weeks to prevent arm movement and potential damage during recovery. Extended immobility can lead to a frozen shoulder, so recovery involves a series of exercises that become increasingly vigorous over time. Full recovery and improved movement typically may take up to a year.
Contact Us About Rotator Cuff Injury
If you feel you have injured your rotator cuff, our innovative treatments can help restore your quality of life. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.