Rotator Cuff Injury Treatment And Prevention: What Everyone Should Know

Kevin Freedman, MD January 19th, 2016

Rotator Cuff Injury Treatment And Prevention: What Everyone Should Know

You use your shoulders every day, whether it’s carrying groceries, brushing your hair, playing baseball or tennis, or lifting a little one in the air for them to see over a crowd. Our shoulders are so important to us that we even use them to describe non-physical labor, like helping a friend “shoulder the burdens” in his life. With all our shoulders do for us, injuries to them can really impact our daily lives. That’s why everyone should know about rotator cuff injury treatment and prevention, so they can keep doing what they love. Rothman Orthopaedic Institute is dedicated to helping you avoid and recover from shoulder injuries, and keeping you educated about good shoulder health.

What are the best methods of rotator cuff injury treatment and prevention?

The best thing you can do to prevent rotator cuff injuries is to take good care of your shoulders. The easiest thing to do in order to maintain good shoulder health is to have a regular, balanced exercise routine, that focuses on strength, flexibility, and aerobic endurance throughout your body. You can also focus on safe lifting techniques when moving heavy objects. When you do have an injury, it’s important to see your doctor right away to prevent further complications.

What happens if I have a rotator cuff injury?

There are a few different types of rotator cuff injuries, and thus there are multiple methods of rotator cuff injury treatment and prevention. One type of injury is simple inflammation of the tendons and muscles called tendonitis, which leads to stiffness and pain in the shoulders. This type of injury can often be treated with rest and icing the joint.

The more serious type of injury is a partial or complete tear of one or more of the muscles and tendons that make up the rotator cuff. In these cases, if the rip is the result of a trauma to the shoulder, you may feel a tearing sensation, followed by immediate pain and weakness in your arm and shoulder. In other cases, the injury may occur slowly over time from regular wear and tear. This is especially common for athletes, or people who do a significant amount of work above their heads.

What are the treatment options for rotator cuff injuries?

Many patient with a rotator cuff injury improve with conservative treatments. This is especially true of those with inflammation or small tears.

The treatment options include:

  • exercises which may include formal physical therapy or even a program you can do at home.
  • use of anti-inflammatory medications.
  • an injection of steroid. A steroid injection is commonly used in patients who do not get better with therapy, or in more severe cases.

Many patients get better with more conservative rotator cuff injury treatment and prevention, and do not require surgery, however, if you do not get better with this therapy, or have a large or acute rotator cuff tear, surgery may be recommended by your physician.

How are rotator cuff injuries treated with surgery?

The surgery for rotator cuff injuries depends on the extent of the problem, as well as the health and lifestyle of the patient. Rotator cuff injuries are usually repaired with arthroscopic surgery techniques. During arthroscopic surgery, a tiny fiber-optic camera is inserted into the joint through a small incision, and the surgeon can see and operate via an image on a tv screen. Small instruments ranging from 3-5 millimeters in size are inserted through additional incisions so that joint structures can be examined and diagnosed, and injured tissue can be repaired or removed.

For cases involving bad tendonitis or small rotator cuff tears, the entire procedure is done with the arthroscope. The under side of the acromion, a part of the shoulder blade, is shaved down so it will not pinch the rotator cuff. If the rotator cuff is frayed, it is debrided, meaning it is cut down to remove material that cannot be repaired.

For cases involving full thickness tears of the rotator cuff, where a muscle or tendon is torn the whole way through, the injury is usually repaired completely through the arthroscope. The bone is prepared for the tendon to be re-attached, sutures are weaved through the tendon, and the tendon is sewn back to anchors attached to the bone. The anchors do not need to be removed.

Occasionally, if the tear is severe or longstanding, the surgery needs to be performed with an open incision. This incision is placed in the area of the rotator cuff on the side of the shoulder, and the procedure is otherwise performed in the same way.

What happens next?

Now that you have more information about rotator cuff injury treatment and prevention, you can be confident about having an informed conversation with your doctor about all of your shoulder health concerns. For more information, please visit us here or contact us at 1-800-321-9999.

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