Rotator cuff disorders are the most common causes of shoulder pain. When resulting from trauma, such as falling on to the affected arm, the most common conditions are tears to the muscles of the rotator cuff or subacromial impingement. Overuse, either through sport or profession, may be a cause of calcific tendonitis which is also a common shoulder disorder.
The rotator cuff consists of muscles and tendons that hold the shoulder in place. The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that are positioned around the shoulder joint. They help to stabilize the shoulder joint and also help with shoulder joint movement. The rotator cuff allows a person to lift his or her arms and reach up.
Symptoms of a Rotator Cuff Injury
The primary symptom of a rotator cuff injury is pain in and around the shoulder joint and painful movement of the shoulder. If there has been an injury, the pain may come on suddenly. Each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may vary but are know to include:
- Recurrent pain, especially with certain activities and at night.
- Difficulty sleeping on the injured side.
- Crepitus or crackling sensation when moving your shoulder in certain positions.
- Limited ability to move arm.
- Weakness when lifting or rotating your arm.
What Causes a Rotator Cuff Injury?
Potential injury to your shoulder may be caused by:
- Overuse tears from sports activity or overhead work.
- A fall on an outstretched arm.
- Auto accident with restrain by a seatbelt.
- Lifting something too heavy with a jerking motion.
The symptoms of a rotator cuff tear may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.
Your doctor may able to find out what is causing your rotator cuff disorder just by interviewing you about your shoulder pain and examining your shoulder. Examination of the shoulders involves measuring the range of motion of your shoulder and a test your arm strength which will require moving your shoulder in various positions and comparing it with the unaffected side. Examination will also include your neck, as cervical injury can sometimes cause pain in the shoulder.
In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for a rotator cuff injury may include the following:
A diagnostic test that uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film. Because x-rays do not show the soft tissues of your shoulder like the rotator cuff, plain x-rays of a shoulder with rotator cuff pain are usually normal and will not show evidence of muscle or tendon tears.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
A diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radio-frequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body. MRI images better show soft tissues such as the rotator cuff tendons. They can show a rotator cuff tear, as well as location within the tendon and the size of the tear.
Rotator Cuff Injury Treatment Options
There are many treatment options for a rotator cuff tear. The best option is different for every person. In planning your treatment, your doctor will consider your age, activity level, tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies general health, Extent and duration of the condition, and the type of tear you have.
Treatment may include:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications.
- Strengthening and stretching exercises.
- Ultrasound and other forms of physical therapy.
- Corticosteroid injection.
- Regenerative medicine techniques such as stem cell injections.
- Surgery (for severe injuries).
Is Surgery Needed for a Rotator Cuff Injury?
Surgery may be required if the tear was the result of a sudden injury, or when pain and weakness have not improved with steroid injections and strengthening exercises. If your pain does not improve with non-surgical methods and if you use your arms for overhead work or sports, your doctor may also suggest surgery. Surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff most often involves re-attaching the tendon to the head of humerus (upper arm bone).
As each injury is unique, so too are the different surgical procedures and approaches to repair rotator cuff injuries. Many surgical repairs can be done on an outpatient basis and do not require you to stay overnight in the hospital. Advancements in surgical techniques for rotator cuff repair include less invasive procedures. Arthroscopic shoulder surgery, or shoulder arthroscopy, is a common procedure to treat rotator cuff tears. Using the scope, an experienced surgeon who is facile with arthroscopic techniques can evaluate the entire shoulder joint and can usually fix the tear through very small incisions using specially-designed instruments and devices.
Do you have shoulder pain that may be a rotator cuff injury? Request an Appointment for a consultation with Sterling Medical Group.