Sports Medicine

November 22, 2014

The Symptoms of a Rotator Cuff Injury and What You Should Do

3D Illustration of shoulder painful, medical concept.

You can prevent further damage to your rotator cuff by recognizing symptoms of a serious injury and contacting your doctor.

Your rotator cuff consists of four separate muscles that come together over your shoulder joint. Unfortunately, there are many ways in which a shoulder can be injured, including tendonitis, arthritis, falls, athletic activities, bone spurs, muscle stress and muscle strain from lifting or pulling.

Regardless of your specific rotator cuff injury, it is important to understand when to see a doctor about the possibility of rotator cuff repair surgery. You can accomplish this by learning to recognize the symptoms of a serious injury and understanding your treatment options.

Do You Need Surgical Intervention for Your Rotator Cuff Injury?
It’s not always obvious whether you have a minor rotator cuff injury or something more serious. This is why it is a good idea to seek medical attention any time you injure your shoulder. Your condition may require surgical intervention if you experience any of the following common signs of a serious rotator cuff injury:

  • Shoulder pain that prevents you from reaching your arm over your head
  • Shoulder pain that keeps you from sleeping, or wakes you up at night
  • Clicking or popping sounds when moving your shoulder
  • Shoulder pain that prevents you from performing everyday activities

If you are experiencing any or all of the above symptoms, then it is imperative that you schedule a doctor’s appointment as soon as possible. If you fail to receive prompt treatment, you run the risk of causing further damage, such as permanent loss of strength or motion.

More than likely, your doctor will start your treatment with non-surgical options, such as medication, corticosteroid injections, or physical therapy. If your body stops responding, or does not respond well to those treatments, however, your doctor will likely assess your age and overall health to determine whether or not you are a good fit for surgery.

The assessment process will likely include an MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging. MRI is a technique that uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed images of the organs and tissues within your body. MRI is a noninvasive way for your doctor to examine your organs, tissues, and skeletal system to diagnose a variety of problems.

Rotator Cuff Surgery Options
If you are a viable candidate for rotator cuff surgery, there are a number of surgical procedures that your doctor may consider. The surgical option that is right for you will vary based on the severity of your injury.

The three main surgery options are:

  • Arthroscopy: This surgery uses a special camera and instruments inserted through small incisions to smoothen and trim down shoulder tendons or bone spurs surrounding the joint. This will help decrease inflammation and pain. This procedure is ideal for those with only minor tears in the rotator cuff.
  • Mini-Open Repair: With mini-open repair, a small incision can be made along the shoulder joint and larger tears in the rotator cuff can be repaired by the skilled hands of a surgeon. Mini-open repair procedures are best suited for those with moderate tissue damage.
  • Open surgery: This procedure involves transferring or even grafting tissue or muscle from one area of the body to the damaged rotator cuff. Open surgery is generally only performed in severe cases and is seen as more of a “last resort.”

In the most severe cases of a torn rotator cuff, it is also possible that open surgery with complete replacement of the joint will be necessary. Only an experienced doctor who specializes in shoulder injuries will be able to determine which surgical option is best for you, so consult with a professional to establish your ideal treatment.

If you are experiencing shoulder pain and would like to consult a surgeon regarding a possible torn rotator cuff, contact Arkansas Surgical Hospital or call 877-918-7020. We can tell you which of our surgeons perform this procedure and set up your appointment to get you started on the road to pain relief today.

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