A rotator cuff tear is a common injury that can cause pain, weakness, and reduced mobility in the shoulder. Although some rotator cuff tears may require surgery, many of these types of injuries can be treated non-surgically and with treatments such as activity modification and physical therapy.
The rotator cuff is made up of a network of tendons and muscles, which form a “cuff” over the head of the humerus (upper arm bone), keeping it firmly in place within the shallow socket of the shoulder. The rotator cuff helps to control the movement of the arm and shoulder, such as lifting and rotating the arm and helps to keep the shoulder joint secure.
A rotator cuff tear is often the result of a sudden shoulder movement, acute injury such as a fall, or from overusing the shoulder. It may also result from normal age-related wear and tear with degeneration of the tendon. This type of injury is common in sports, such as tennis or baseball, and in jobs that involve excessive overhead arm movements or heavy lifting, such as construction.
Treatment will depend on the severity of the rotator cuff injury and the type of damage, but it can often be treated effectively with non-surgical treatment methods. Nonsurgical treatments may include:
- Rest, activity restriction, and limiting overhead arm movements
- Cold therapy, such as applying ice regularly for 20 minute periods
- Over-the-counter or prescription medication to reduce pain and inflammation
- Corticosteroid injections to reduce pain and inflammation (if oral medications do not work successfully)
- Physical and occupational therapy to relieve pain and restore strength and function to the shoulder
Rotator Cuff Repair Surgery
Surgery is usually recommended for painful, acute tears, and when non-surgical treatments have not relieved symptoms effectively. It may also be recommended to people who rely on arm strength for work or playing sports. There are several types of surgical procedures that can be performed for rotator cuff tears. The size, shape, and location of your tear will determine the type of surgery that is best for you. Many rotator cuff repair procedures can be carried out as outpatient procedures and require either a general or regional anesthetic.
For partial rotator cuff tears, a debridement procedure may be necessary. This procedure simply trims the tendon and removes the damaged tissue. For more complex tears, surgery to reattach the tendon to the upper arm bone may be required. Common surgical approaches for rotator cuff repair surgery include:
Arthroscopic repair. This type of surgery allows the surgeon to see, diagnose, and treat the injury using miniature surgical instruments and a viewing scope inserted through very small incisions.
Open surgical repair surgery. This is carried out for larger or more complex tears. It requires a larger incision than arthroscopic repair and the large deltoid muscle on the shoulder is moved aside to carry out the surgery.
Mini-open repair surgery. A variation of open surgical repair that uses much smaller incisions and the deltoid muscle does not need to be detached.
An acromioplasty procedure may also be performed at the same time as repair surgery. This procedure involves removing bone spurs from the surface of the shoulder bone (acromion). Bone spurs can cause friction during movement, leading to tendon damage.
Treatment for Shoulder Injuries in Maryland
If you are experiencing shoulder pain, speak to the orthopedic specialists at Greater Chesapeake Hand to Shoulder. Our team of specialists are dedicated to relieving pain and movement limitations in the upper extremity, allowing you to get back to your normal activities, pain-free. To find out more about our services or to schedule an appointment or physician referral, contact us at (410) 296-6232, or for your convenience, you can request an appointment online.