Valuable Tips for Patients Managing Their Rotator Cuff Injury Recovery

Kevin Freedman, MD January 22nd, 2016

When lifting your arms to put on a sweater feels like a chore and all your dishes need to be placed on the lowest shelf due to shoulder pain, your rotator cuff injury is obviously impairing your daily activities. What may not be so obvious is the injury’s impact on your morale. When you rely on your shoulder to complete all tasks related to lifting and your mobility is severely affected by your injury, it can feel easy to view yourself as captive until your recovery is finished. With the right resources, there is hope. Thus, with the treatment plans and tools available at Rothman Orthopaedic Institute, rotator cuff injury recovery is possible.

The anatomy of the shoulder is a complex ball and socket operation that demands the functional use of three bones, four muscles that make up the rotator cuff, and a bursa—which is a lubricating material that cushions the arms’ movements. This joint relies on the rotator cuff to interact with functions of the humerus to rotate and lift upward. The rotator cuff attaches at the head of the humerus bone in the arm.

When the rotator cuff is injured, its severity is classified as either a partial tear or a full-thickness tear depending on whether the tendon is severed. Because of the intricacy of the tendon, there are different places in and around the tendon that can be affected. The bursa may become inflamed when the rotator cuff is injured. The most common location of injury is in the supraspinatus muscle in the rotator cuff. Depending on whether the tear was caused by a sudden accident or through the wearing down of the tendon, it may be considered either an acute tear or a degenerative tear.

Rotator Cuff Recovery Tip One: Track Changes

When you are coping with daily pain, it can be hard to notice any improvements in your rotator cuff strength, flexibility, and functionality. One recommendation is creating a consistent place—whether in Excel or in a paper journal, to create a written daily account of not only the different treatment methods utilized but also their effects. This record will be utilized by all medical professionals to adjust and customize your treatment plan to best fit your needs. Each person’s recovery will look a little different, and it is not uncommon for the pace of recovery to vary widely between individuals.

Rotator Cuff Recovery Tip Two: Take a Cross-Training Approach

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, a patient should seek and expect to restore function and manage pain with conservative treatment options at a 50% success rate, but should seek surgical treatment specifically to reestablish shoulder strength. Under a doctor’s supervision, the proper steps can be taken to achieve early treatment and to intervene if more aggressive treatment is needed. The options that may be prescribed initially include: rest, activity adjustments, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, exercises, physical therapy, and possible steroid injection. By implementing as many appropriate methods as possible, the results of your recovery will be positively impacted.

Rotator Cuff Recovery Tip Three: Stay Diligent & Trust the Process

For patients that are proactively seeking recovery, one of the most difficult parts may be resting enough. Another common obstacle is being consistent with each type of treatment. Some factors that would inhibit a full recovery may be:

  • Large tears, that may grow or worsen due to overuse or repetitive stress during the recovery period
  • Age, with those over the age of 65 having a slower recovery
  • Smoking
  • Challenges receiving and maintaining the resources needed to pursue treatment financially, such as issues with a workers’ compensation claim
  • Poor tissue quality, which without enough rest can be further damaged and slow to heal
  • A lack of patient compliance with the treatment guidelines and restrictions

Rothman Orthopaedic Institute sees patients like you achieve rotator cuff injury recovery everyday. It is realistic and imperative that you take ownership over your role in the process.

For more information, please visit us here or contact us at 1-800-321-9999.

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