More Than A Bum Shoulder
Shoulder pain is a common yet debilitating condition that affects thousands of people every year. The shoulder is vital for simple movements like lifting a fork to complex activities like throwing and climbing. Shoulder pain can happen for various reasons, but most are due to rotator cuff injuries. In some cases of shoulder pain, doctors may recommend rotator cuff repair surgery.
Understanding your rotator cuff
The shoulder is a joint consisting of 3 primary bones. The end of the upper arm bone connects to the collarbone and shoulder blade. A series of strong tendons and muscles wrap around these bones to form the rotator cuff. These tendons and muscles both secure the bones and help with movement. Due to overuse or injury, shoulders are susceptible to arthritis, sprains, and strains. In some cases, rotator cuff injuries can happen.
Signs of rotator cuff tears
Rotator cuff injuries often have specific symptoms such as a deep, dull ache. Other symptoms include weakness when raising the arm, pain during sleep, and signs of crepitus. Despite these symptoms, the best course of action is to visit a doctor immediately. The doctor can perform an x-ray or MRI to gauge the severity of the injury and diagnose treatment. In some cases, both patient and doctor can tell when rotator cuff repair surgery is necessary.
The shoulder’s gotten worse over time
Rotator cuff injuries respond well to non-surgical treatment. The doctor will often recommend a combination of pain medication, rest, and physical therapy. In some cases, these techniques fail, and the pain gets progressively worse. Some patients are unable to use the arm effectively or sleep on the injured side. When this happens, a doctor may recommend surgery.
You’ve had a severe shoulder injury
Most rotator cuff injuries are partial tears from overuse or arthritis. However, sudden, acute injuries may need immediate surgical care. Car accidents, falling on outstretched arms, and sports injuries are common examples. These may cause full-thickness tears that will require surgery to re-attach the tendon.
It’s affecting your quality of life
Some patients with rotator cuff tears may find daily tasks difficult. The injury may impact work, exercise, sleep, or social activities. Rotator cuff tears cause muscle weakness, meaning lifting even simple objects seem difficult. If there are severe work or financial consequences to the injury, surgery may be necessary.
How rotator cuff repair can help
Rotator cuff repair involves re-attaching the partial or complete tear to the bone. In the past, orthopedic surgeons performed open surgeries. Now, with minimally invasive means, the surgeon only needs 2-3 minor incisions. An arthroscope camera goes into one incision, and the repair tools go into the others. The surgeon can then clean up and re-attach the tendon to the bone. Minimally invasive surgery makes the procedure faster, safer, and more successful outcomes.
Look for the signs
Rotator cuff injuries are common, but all do not require surgery. The tendon can heal naturally with a pain management and physical therapy plan. However, there are some cases where non-surgical treatment alone will fail. Surgery may be best for full-thickness tears and injuries that get progressively worse. Ensure to address any prolonged shoulder pain with a visit to the doctor.