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Rotator Cuff Injuries

The muscles and tendons of the rotator “cuff” hold the upper arm bone in the socket of the shoulder joint. Usually occurring in the dominant arm, a rotator cuff injury weakens the shoulder and makes daily activities and routines difficult and painful. Injuries are categorized as acute or chronic:

  • Acute injuries are tears and strains to the rotator cuff that result from a traumatic event, such as holding out the arm to break a fall.
  • Chronic injuries are injuries that result from overuse and occur over time. Athletes and construction workers are especially prone to rotator cuff injuries.

What causes a Rotator Cuff Injury?

Most rotator cuff injuries are caused by the normal effects of aging, so people over 40 are at greater risk of a rotator cuff tear. Those engaged in repetitive lifting or overhead activities – like pitchers in baseball or painters ­– are also at risk.

The majority of tears in young adults are caused by a traumatic injury, such as a fall.

How do you know you have a Rotator Cuff Injury?

Symptoms of an acute rotator cuff tear include:

  • Intense pain
  • Immediate arm weakness
  • A “snapping” sensation

Symptoms of a chronic rotator cuff tear include:

  • Mild shoulder pain at first, then increasing, especially at night
  • Muscle weakness
  • Pain when lifting the arm over the head
  • Limited motion

How does OSI fix a Rotator Cuff Injury?

Your OSI shoulder expert will discuss the activities that may have caused your rotator cuff pain and examine you for signs and symptoms of a rotator cuff injury. You can expect some or all of the following as your OSI doctor seeks to confirm initial diagnosis and create the most effective treatment plan:

  • Physical exam: Your OSI orthopedic specialist will discuss your symptoms and general medical history, then test the range of motion in your shoulder. Your doctor may also check for a pinched nerve, which can present similar symptoms.
  • X-rays: X-rays may show the development of a bone spur.
  • MRI: An MRI can show the location and size of the rotator cuff tear.

Nonsurgical Treatment

Getting treatment earlier rather than later will prevent the worsening of rotator cuff injury symptoms. Your OSI shoulder specialist will consider the type of tear you have, as well as your age and activity level, when planning treatment.

Nonsurgical approaches include:

  • Rest
  • Activity modification
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications
  • Steroid injections
  • Physical therapy

Surgical Treatment

Your OSI orthopedic shoulder surgeon may consider a surgical approach if your pain persists in spite of the above non-surgical treatment methods. If you are an active person who needs full function for sports or work, your OSI doctor may also suggest surgery. Surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff most often involves re-attaching the tendon to the head of the upper arm bone. Degenerative conditions or a severe injury might require a total shoulder replacement.