Four Things to Know about Rotator Cuff Injuries

Posted on September 28, 2018


When a shoulder has pain, it makes arm motion very difficult, if not impossible. A group of muscles and tendons that hold your shoulder joint in place make up the rotator cuff. When the rotator cuff is injured or irritated, the pain caused by the damage limits your range of motion, and your arm loses strength. A bone spur on a shoulder bone, or a tear in a muscle or tendon are two of the types of injuries that affect the rotator cuff. 

Bone Spurs

Orthopedic specialists are doctors who diagnose and treat diseases and injuries to the musculoskeletal system. If you have a nagging or debilitating pain in your shoulder, the first thing you should do is consult with orthopedic care specialists for a proper diagnosis. They will give a detailed physical exam to know which area of the shoulder has the problem. The specialist should send you for an X-ray or MRI that will show where a bone spur is located. A bone spur is a formation on the joint, usually the result of arthritis, repetitive overhead work, or aging. The bone spur irritates the rotator cuff tendon, fraying the surface of the tendon. The orthopedic surgeon may perform arthroscopic surgery to decompress the tendon. A camera and tools are inserted into small incisions to allow the surgeon to see where the repair is needed. The surgeon will smooth the bone by grinding down the spur. Depending on the severity of the fraying, the surgeon might also shave off frayed portions of the tendon.  

Rotator Cuff Tears

The most common symptom of rotator cuff injury is pain. The pain is felt over the top of the shoulder and arm. Some patients experience pain as far down as the elbow. Some people have no pain, but experience weakness when lifting objects, raising the arm overhead, reaching, and getting dressed. Rotator cuff tears happen more often as you age.


Noninvasive Treatments

The rotator cuff might heal on its own if the tear is small. If treatment is required, the first step is usually physical therapy for the rotator cuff. Anti-inflammatory medications may help reduce the pain. Cortisone injections may be used to reduce the pain causing inflammation. A minority of rotator cuff tears can benefit from surgery.

Rotator Cuff Tear Surgery

If the tear in the rotator cuff was caused by an accident, fall, or other trauma to an otherwise healthy, strong person, surgery may be the best option to heal the tear. The factors for deciding to opt for surgery also depend on what types of treatments the patient has attempted that haven’t helped. Another consideration is the patient’s activity needs. If the person doesn’t need full function to complete the activities they normally do, or if the muscle tissue is weak or atrophied, surgery is not recommended. A possible procedure is a subacromial decompression to remove the pain-causing inflammation rather than repair the torn tendon. At Peconic Bay Medical Center, orthopedic surgery specialists in Norfolk County, NY, can diagnose the rotator cuff tear and give the patient options of procedures for the best outcome. Contact them today to explore your options.