You use your shoulders more than you know for everyday activities like reaching up to turn on the fan or throwing a football during a pick-up game. Your rotator cuff is a vital aspect of your shoulder, but unfortunately it’s prone to injury from trauma or overuse.
If you suspect you have a rotator cuff injury, the team at Peninsula Orthopedic Associates has the knowledge and tools to help. Our team of 10 orthopedic specialists provides you with a quick diagnosis and multiple treatment options for a fast recovery.
Understanding your rotator cuff
Your rotator cuff encompasses four muscles that come together as tendons to keep your shoulder joint intact. It's responsible for holding your upper arm bone in your shoulder socket and allowing you to lift it.
These muscles form a cuff, which stabilizes your shoulder joint by covering the humeral head. The four muscles that make up your rotator cuff are:
- Teres minor
Bursa sacs between the rotator cuff and your bones provide lubrication so the bones can move smoothly and prevent friction and injury. However, the bursae can also become injured or inflamed if you suffer a rotator cuff injury or tear.
Your rotator cuff is very strong, but you use it a lot. Overuse can lead to rotator cuff tears and traumatic injuries from sports or falls.
Signs of a rotator cuff tear
There are different types of rotator cuff tears, each of which causes various symptoms in your shoulder. A traumatic rotator cuff tear often causes immediate symptoms, while an overuse injury slowly leads to problems in your shoulders.
A traumatic rotator cuff tear brings intense pain in your arm and shoulder. Other symptoms you may experience with any rotator cuff tear include:
- Trouble lifting your arm
- Weakness in the shoulder
- Shoulder pain that gets worse at night
- Popping or clicking sounds in your joint
Your symptoms usually worsen the longer you let the tear go without treatment. Traumatic tears require care right away, while degenerative tear pain may ease with medications but continue to get worse without professional treatment.
Healing from a rotator cuff tear
Unfortunately, rotator cuff tears don't heal without surgical repair. However, you can see notable improvements without having surgery.
Several factors help our team determine the proper treatment for your tear, including:
- Your age
- Your overall health
- The type of tear you have
- Your activity level
Most patients can decrease their pain level and increase functionality in their shoulder joints with activity modifications, medications, and physical therapy. The goal is to strengthen the muscles in your shoulder to help alleviate symptoms from the rotator cuff tear.
We also recommend steroid injections to ease discomfort from a rotator cuff tear, which significantly helps you during physical therapy exercises.
Most people see an improvement in their symptoms with conservative treatments over several months. However, it could take up to a year to see significant results from physical therapy, depending on the severity of the tear.
Do you need surgery?
If you've tried conservative treatment without significant relief or you have a complete tear that's affecting your daily activities, our team recommends surgical treatment of the tear.
You may also need surgery if your rotator cuff tear affects how you move your arm for work or if you're an athlete with a significant disability in the injured arm.
We typically perform surgery arthroscopically, a minimally invasive form that allows us to fix your rotator cuff tear through several tiny incisions. Arthroscopic surgery is outpatient, meaning you can go home the same day.
After your procedure, you still need physical therapy to improve strength and mobility. However, you should see improvement after several months once your rotator cuff tear heals from surgery and you've rebuilt strength in your shoulder.
If you have a shoulder injury, don't hesitate to call our office in Daly City, California, today for a consultation or book online.