Rotator Cuff Injury

When reaching or raising your arm hurts, it may be your rotator cuff. Ignoring it can lead to permanent damage. Our shoulder experts would love to help you move that arm, pain-free. Let's assess your options: from minimally invasive repair to the most experience in West Michigan for shoulder replacement, we've got a solution that's right for you.

The rotator cuff is made up of four pairs of muscles and tendons stabilizing the shoulder and arm. The most common wear and tear injury occurs on the front of the shoulder blade from years of use. Repetitive motion, arthritis or overhead tasks also increase risk. Falls or high-impact injuries can rupture tendons, too. Left untreated, weakness, limited mobility and nerve damage can develop.

Treatments for Rotator Cuff Injuries

When the pain from your rotator cuff won’t go away, you need treatment from the orthopedic specialists at Spectrum Health.

We’re known for our success in repairing shoulder problems. Our orthopedic surgeons use the latest treatment options, including minimally invasive arthroscopic techniques and shoulder joint replacement surgery when needed. We can help relieve your pain and restore your normal shoulder function.

About the Shoulder

The shoulder area, or girdle, includes bones and joints. The bones are the scapula, clavicle, and humerus. The joints are the glenohumeral, acromioclavicular, and sternoclavicular joints. The shoulder has the greatest range of motion of all joints in the body but is more prone to injury. The large deltoid muscle provides most of the power in shoulder motion. Underneath the deltoid muscle, four rotator cuff muscles fine-tune shoulder movement. Tendons attach these muscles to bones. The rotator cuff is made up of muscles and tendons that hold the upper arm in the shoulder joint.

What Are Common Rotator Cuff Disorders?

Disorders include swelling (inflammation), called tendonitis, and tears of tendons or muscles. Other names for rotator cuff tendonitis include shoulder impingement syndrome, tennis shoulder, and swimmer’s shoulder.

What Causes Rotator Cuff Disorders?

Trauma throughout one’s lifetime leads to rotator cuff problems. Activities in which the arms are repeatedly moved over the head, such as baseball, swimming, and tennis, cause such trauma. Certain jobs, such as house painting, use similar motions, which stress the shoulders and cause inflammation and pain.

What Are the Symptoms of Rotator Cuff Disorders?

The main symptom is shoulder pain, especially when the arm is moved to the side, up over the head. The arm and shoulder may also feel weak. Other symptoms include pain that worsens with activities, such as brushing hair and lying down to sleep. Pushing objects away from the body with the arm can be painful, but pulling objects is usually not.

Tendonitis can also lead to a tear in the rotator cuff tendon. Then the shoulder becomes weak, and it becomes very hard to do anything with the arm overhead.

How Are Rotator Cuff Disorders Diagnosed?

The health care provider uses a medical history and physical examination for diagnosis. The shoulder and arm are moved in specific ways. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) helps when a tear is suspected.

How Are Rotator Cuff Disorders Treated?

Rotator cuff tendonitis can usually be treated without surgery.

The health care provider may prescribe medicines such as nonsteroidal anti inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for inflammation and pain. These drugs, however, can cause stomach pain and bleeding and other problems.

Exercise can help reduce pain. This exercise may include physical therapy to strengthen rotator shoulder tendons. Ice packs applied to the shoulder also help reduce pain and inflammation.

Surgery can repair a torn tendon or can be done when physical therapy does not help. Surgery usually involves an arthroscopic operation (inserting a small tool to see the rotator cuff directly and repair any damage).

DOs and DON’Ts in Managing Rotator Cuff Pain:
  • DO take your medicines and perform your exercises as directed.
  • DO rest your arm. Sometimes rest is all that is needed.
  • DO try to do tasks with your unaffected arm.
  • DO call your health care provider if pain is bad enough to counter drugs.
  • DON’T use pain medicine that may be addictive for long-term therapy.
  • DON’T do activities in which you put your hands above your head. Don’t do push-ups, and don’t do strenuous sports while healing.

Contact the following sources:

  • American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
    Tel: (800) 346-AAOS
  • American Physical Therapy Association
    Tel: (800) 999-2782
  • Arthritis Foundation
    Tel: (800) 283-7800

Copyright © 2016 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc.

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