Do you have a dull ache in your shoulder that worsens at night or when you try to use your arm? You could have a rotator cuff injury. This group of muscles and ligaments forms a tough covering of tissue over the head of your upper arm bone, holding it in the shallow socket of your shoulder joint.
Rotator cuff injuries become increasingly common with age, especially once you turn 40. In most cases, they occur from progressive wear and tear on the tissue that leaves it vulnerable to injury. However, you can also injure your rotator cuff during accidents or falls.
Thomas F. Saylor, MD, specializes in treating hand and upper extremity injuries, such as rotator cuff injuries, at Orthopaedic Care Specialists in North Palm Beach, Florida. Rotator cuff tears may not require surgery, but you need the right treatment strategy to help these muscles and tendons recover so they function properly.
Types of rotator cuff tears
Like most injuries, rotator cuff tears can vary in severity. These shoulder injuries fall into two categories: partial and complete. As you might expect, a partial tear means some of the rotator cuff tendon remains attached to the arm bone, while a complete tear means the entire tendon is separated from the bone.
Since rotator cuff tears often occur slowly over time, you may not experience symptoms immediately. When they do occur, signs of an injury often include:
- Pain when lifting your arm
- Weakness in the shoulder
- Difficulty lifting things, including your arm
- A clicking or popping feeling when moving your arm
- Pain in the shoulder that worsens at rest or at night
When you have minor symptoms, it can be tempting to ignore the problem and hope it will resolve on its own. However, most rotator cuff tears worsen without treatment, and complete tears can make it nearly impossible to use your arm. They can also lead to chronic shoulder pain.
Treating rotator cuff tears
Technically, the only way to get a rotator cuff to completely heal is to get surgery so Dr. Saylor can repair the damage. However, you can improve the functionality of your rotator cuff by using conservative methods of treatment.
Approximately 8 in 10 people find relief and improve their shoulder function by treating the rotator cuff tear with nonsurgical solutions. These treatments often include:
- Using an arm sling and resting your shoulder
- Taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce swelling and pain
- Getting targeted steroid injections to address pain and swelling
- Participating in a physical therapy program to learn stretching and strengthening exercises
If you have a complete rotator cuff tear or your injury doesn’t respond to conservative solutions, Dr. Saylor could recommend surgery.
Dr. Saylor uses minimally invasive arthroscopic approaches to perform rotator cuff surgery, and you can go home the same day as your procedure. However, recovering from rotator cuff surgery can take up to a year or more, depending on the extent of tissue damage.
Whether you have nonsurgical or surgical treatment for a rotator cuff tear, it’s also possible to reinjure the same tendon again. But working with an experienced provider, such as Dr. Saylor, can help ensure you heal properly and take the right steps to avoid additional problems in the future.
Do you want to see if you have a rotator cuff tear, or do you have one and want treatment? Get the help you need by calling 561-292-0148 or booking an appointment online with Orthopaedic Care Specialists today.