Rotator cuff injuries are among the most common orthopedic-related injuries diagnosed and treated today. They’re particularly common among those who lead active lifestyles or who are involved in physical sports. These injuries can range from mildly irritating to being so debilitating that they require you to change parts of your life. Within this post, we will address some of the most frequent questions related to these injuries, including:
- What is a rotator cuff injury?
- What causes rotator cuff injuries?
- What are the symptoms of rotator cuff injuries?
- What types of activities can lead to rotator cuff injuries?
- What are the types of rotator cuff injury?
- How is a rotator cuff injury treated?
- Is surgery always necessary for rotator cuff injuries?
- How can Michigan Surgery Specialists help?
What Is a Rotator Cuff Injury?
The rotator cuff is actually not a single thing. It’s really a collection of muscles and tendons. Its job is to make sure that the head of your upper arm bone stays securely within the shoulder socket. A rotator cuff injury is a tear within those muscles and/or tendons that causes pain, loss of range of motion, and other symptoms. You may also hear this injury called:
- A rotator cuff tear
- Partial rotator cuff tear
- Complete rotator cuff tear
What Causes Rotator Cuff Injuries?
A wide range of things can cause rotator cuff injuries, but the most common include injury from playing sports and injury from repetitive motion on your job. For instance, house painters must frequently reach over their heads and perform repetitive motions, which can cause damage to the rotator cuff. Baseball pitchers must similarly perform repetitive motions that can damage the rotator cuff. However, a rotator cuff injury can also occur due to an accident, such as falling on your arm or lifting something too heavy for you.
In addition to specific activity types, career choices, and sports, additional risk factors can increase your likelihood of developing this type of injury. These factors include:
- Your Age: The older you are, the greater the chance of sustaining a rotator cuff injury. In fact, these injuries are most common in those age 40 and older.
- Family History: If your family has a history of rotator cuff injuries, then you have a higher risk of being affected yourself, as some families seem more susceptible to these injuries than do others.
What Are the Symptoms of a Rotator Cuff Injury?
It’s important to understand that many people never feel the symptoms of a rotator cuff injury. Others may only suffer from mild symptoms, while yet others will experience severe symptoms. The possible rotator cuff injury symptoms include:
- Hearing a clicking or popping sound when you move your arm
- Feeling weakness in your shoulder
- Pain when reaching over head
- Tenderness in your shoulder
- Struggling to raise your arm
- Struggling to lift things you normally can
- Trouble reaching behind your back
- Difficulty sleeping on your shoulder
- Experiencing pain when lying on your arm or moving it in specific ways
What Are the Types of Rotator Cuff Injuries?
There are two types of rotator cuff injuries – partial tears, which are less severe, and complete tears, which are more severe. In order to determine which type you suffer from, a physician will need to conduct tests. Some of these include:
- Range of motion tests
- Strength tests
- Imaging scans such as ultrasounds and MRIs
In addition to tests, your doctor will ask a wide range of questions about your pain or discomfort, about your range of motion and whether it has changed, about your involvement in sports or a profession that might lend itself to a rotator cuff, and more.
What Treatment Options Are Available for Sufferers of Rotator Cuff Injuries?
In many instances, even serious rotator cuff injuries can heal with time and the right care. However, for some patients, surgery will be necessary. With that being said, most physicians will attempt nonsurgical treatment first, and they are effective about half the time. In most cases, nonsurgical treatment for rotator cuff injuries will include the following:
- Abstaining from any activity that might aggravate the injury.
- Using hot and cold packs to treat pain and inflammation.
- Taking over the counter pain medications to help with pain and inflammation.
- Physical therapy to help regain strength and range of motion.
- Cortisone injections to help reduce inflammation.
However, about half of patients suffering from a rotator cuff injury will ultimately require surgery. There are several distinct types that may be used depending on the situation, including:
- Open Surgery – This is traditional surgery that requires a relatively large opening and conventional surgical tools to repair muscle and tendon tissue.
- Mini-Open Surgery – This method combines open surgery with arthroscopic tools.
- Arthroscopic Surgery – An arthroscope is used in conjunction with a very small incision to repair tissue and results in less time required for healing.
Is Surgery Necessary for Rotator Cuff Injuries?
No, surgery is not always necessary for rotator cuff injuries. About half of all patients are able to heal without having surgery. However, the treatment chosen should be based on your specific situation, including whether you regularly engage in sports or are in a profession that encourages rotator cuff damage, your age, your health level, your family history, and more.
How Can Michigan Surgery Specialists Help?
At Michigan Surgery Specialists, we have many years of experience in helping our patients successfully recover from rotator cuff injuries. We work with athletes, professionals, and those injured through accidents to help you regain your range of motion and strength. Our experienced orthopedic experts take an individual approach and base their treatment recommendations on your situation and specifics. We also work with Motus Rehabilitation to ensure you receive the ideal aftercare necessary to support a positive outcome.
Contact Michigan Surgery Specialists todayto learn more about treatment options for rotator cuff injuries and to schedule an assessment on your condition.