Rotator Cuff Treatment in Kirkland, WA
A torn rotator cuff is a fairly common injury, as well as a painful one. These tears can occur as either a partial, or total tear, which may or may not require surgical treatment depending upon the severity of the individual case.
Rotator cuff injuries are very common. Between 1998 and 2004, over 5 million physician visits were attributed to rotator cuff problems.
Rotator cuff disease encompasses a spectrum of disorders including rotator cuff tendinitis, impingement, subacromial bursitis, and rotator cuff tears.
The rotator cuff is made up of four tendons (subscapularis, supraspinatus, infraspinatus, and teres minor) that work together to hold the humeral head (the ball part of the joint) in the shoulder socket to allow smooth motion. When the rotator cuff tears, weakness and pain can occur.
Basic Shoulder Anatomy
The rotator cuff itself is made up of four muscles that together form a single cuff of tendon that connects to the head of the humerus. This cuff is what allows the shoulder to move around in all directions.
Much of the movement that our arms make is determined by the rotator cuff, which is why injuries to this area can be particularly painful. Even a task as simple as lifting your arm above your head would be impossible with a torn rotator cuff.
Potential Causes of a Rotator Cuff Tear
In reality, there are an immeasurable number of ways in which a person could injure their rotator cuff. However, most often, a torn rotator cuff occurs from:
- Repetitive motions
- Multiple injuries to the rotator cuff
- Heavy lifting
- Falling onto the arm or shoulder
- Athletic activities, especially those involving lots of shoulder movement like tennis or baseball
- Shoulder impingement syndrome
What is Rotator Cuff Disease?
Rotator cuff disease is correlated with age. Up to half of people over the age of 70 have a rotator cuff tear, whereas rotator cuff tears in people under age 40 are very rare and are usually due to repetitive injury (as in overhead athletes) or result from acute trauma. Over time, especially with a large rotator cuff tear that is not repaired, a certain type of arthritis can occur.
Symptoms of a Torn Rotator Cuff
Some people that suffer a rotator cuff tear will not experience any pain, but this is not often the case. Typically, individuals will notice symptoms that gradually worsen over the course of a few days or weeks.
At first, the pain will likely radiate from the front of the shoulder before spreading down the arm. This pain will become more intense when the arm is lifted or lowered and may even begin to disrupt your sleep.
In cases of more severe injury, the pain will be immediate. It will also be instantly difficult for the person to move their shoulder joint in any way as there is no longer anything holding the shoulder muscles to the bone.
Not all rotator cuff tears will require surgery. Adequate rest, physical therapy, and pain medications may be enough for some tears to heal on their own, but if the injury does not improve over a significant period of time then surgery is likely the best option.
Like the diagnosis process, discussions regarding surgery for a rotator cuff repair will need to be individualized for the exact patient and their exact injury. Fortunately, recent achievements in the healthcare industry have allowed surgical procedures to become incredibly advanced, leading to less recovery time for patients.
Will My Rotator Cuff Injury Require Surgery?
Partial rotator cuff tears can sometimes be treated with rest, anti-inflammatory medications, and physical therapy. Full thickness (complete) rotator cuff tears usually do not heal on their own. When pain and weakness persist a rotator cuff repair can be performed. The goal of rotator cuff repair is to improve pain and function. Rotator cuff tears can now be treated arthroscopically, which allows for a quicker recovery and less postoperative pain.
Schedule a Rotator Cuff Consultation
If you have injured your rotator cuff and are experiencing pain and discomfort, call our office at (425) 823-4000 to schedule an appointment to see which is the best treatment option for you.