Rotator cuff injury
A rotator cuff is a group of four muscles and tendons that can help move and stabilize the shoulder. Whenever you move the shoulder, the rotator cuff is used to help move the joint and stabilize it. The rotator cuff is an area of the body that often suffers from injuries. Some of the most common rotator cuff injuries include:
Common symptoms of rotator cuff injuries include:
- pain and tenderness when reaching overhead
- issues reaching behind the back
- pain in the shoulder, which is especially experienced at night
- difficulty sleeping on the shoulder that is affected
- avoiding certain activities as they cause pain
- difficulty achieving a full range of shoulder motion
- weakness of the shoulder, which is progressive and worsens with time
What are the causes of rotator cuff injuries?
A rotator cuff injury can range anywhere between being mild to severe.
Tendinitis, for example, is caused by overuse of the rotator cuff. This leads to inflammation, which is especially common in athletes who overuse the shoulder or people who need to do a lot of reaching upward at their jobs.
Bursitis is caused by an inflammation of the bursa, which is a fluid-filled sac, located between the rotator cuff tendon and the underlying bone. It is also a very common injury of the rotator cuff.
A rotator cuff strain or tear is caused by either an acute injury or by overuse. The tendons that have the function of connecting the muscles to the bones can either strain or tear. That tear can be partial or complete. Falls, car injuries, and other sudden accidents can also lead to a rotator cuff strain or tear. When such injuries cause the condition, the pain is commonly intense and immediate.
What symptoms do rotator cuff injuries lead to?
Not all cases of rotator cuff injuries are associated with pain. Some causes of a rotator cuff injury are caused by a degenerative condition, which means that the damage might have been present for months or years before the symptoms begin to show.
Common symptoms of rotator cuff injuries include pain and tenderness when reaching overhead, issues reaching behind the back, pain in the shoulder, which is especially experienced at night, difficulty sleeping on the shoulder that is affected, avoiding certain activities as they cause pain, difficulty achieving a full range of shoulder motion, weakness of the shoulder, which is progressive and worsens with time, or issues with reaching behind the back.
If you experience any of these symptoms for more than a week and notice that you’re losing function in your arm, you must speak to a local rehabilitation specialist.
Are there any risk factors for a rotator cuff injury?
A rotator cuff injury can either be acute or degenerative. An acute rotator cuff injury is typically caused by an injury or accident, such as falling, lifting heavy objects, or having the shoulder forced into an awkward position, such as during a car accident. A degenerative rotator cuff injury is caused by overusing the area for a long time. It typically affects those who are 40 years or older, those who work at jobs that require repetitive lifting, such as carpenters or painters, and athletes, especially those who play tennis, baseball are rowers or wrestlers.
What does diagnosing a rotator cuff injury look like?
To diagnose an injury of the rotator cuff, your doctor will ask you questions about your medical history, any recent injuries or accidents, do a physical exam, and order imaging scans, which can help to get a better look at the rotator cuff. During a physical exam, your doctor will check the strength of your arm and its range of motion.
Other, similar conditions, such as arthritis or a pinched nerve, need to be ruled out before diagnosing a rotator cuff injury. An imaging scan, such as an X-ray can help identify any bone spurs. Bone spurs are small growths of bone that can rub against the rotator cuff tendon and lead to pain and inflammation.
An MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging, or an ultrasound scan might also be used for diagnosing a rotator cuff injury. Such imaging tests can examine the tendons and the muscles and help show any tears, as well as the size and severity of them.
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What is the best treatment for rotator cuff injury?
Treatment for rotator cuff injury can rest from simply resting the arm that is affected and up to surgery. The severity, size of the injury as well as how you react to certain treatments will all determine what option will be best for you.
In as many as 50 percent of cases, a rotator cuff injury can be treated with the use of conservative, nonsurgical treatments. It is important that you visit pain medicine and rehabilitation doctors as soon as possible and start rotator cuff injury treatment, as leaving it unattended can cause complications and the injury might worsen with time.
Some non-surgical treatments that can help a rotator cuff injury include:
- Resting the arm that is affected or wearing a sling, which can prevent certain arm motions.
- Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, such as naproxen and ibuprofen can help to reduce pain and swelling.
- Physical therapy can help to regain the strength of the area and range of motion.
- Ice and heat therapy can help to reduce swelling.
- Steroid injections are also often used as a treatment for rotator cuff injury, as they can help to reduce inflammation. Such injections are injected into the affected area and contain cortisone; a powerful steroid that can help to manage the symptoms.
What is the outlook for rotator cuff injury?
How well you will recover from a rotator cuff injury and what recovery will look like will depend on the type of injury, as well as how fast you react to it. If you continue working or doing sports despite the injury and the pain, chances are that you are worsening the condition, which also means that recovering from it can take longer.
If you want to improve your outlook after such an injury, it is important to seek medical help and follow the instructions provided to you by your local doctor or our pain specialists at Downtown Pain Physicians, rehabilitation center, strictly.
Can you prevent rotator cuff injury?
People who work at jobs that require using the shoulder frequently, or certain athletes, might be at an increased risk of suffering from a rotator cuff injury.
However, there are certain steps to take which can help to decrease this risk. It is important to take breaks from using the shoulder frequently and do exercises that can strengthen the muscles of the shoulder. If you’re not aware of what stretches and exercises work best for you, speak to a physical therapist. If you suffer from shoulder pain, make sure to rest and use ice on the affected area, as this can help to reduce swelling. Tending to one injury before going back to your daily activities can help to prevent another injury.
For more information about Rotator Cuff Injury treatment or schedule an appointment with the top pain relief doctors in Downtown, Brooklyn, and Lower Manhattan, please call our office for a consultation and indicate which location you want to visit.
The information on this website is to provide general information. In no way does any of the information provided reflect definitive treatment advice. It is essential to consult a best-in-class pain management specialist in New York regarding ANY questions or issues. A thorough evaluation should ALWAYS be performed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to call your pain doctor to schedule a consultation.
Dr. Raj Raval, M.D.
- Board Certified
- Interventional Pain & Musculoskeletal Medicine Specialist
Education & training
- SUNY Downstate PMR Residency
- Rutgers University Fellowship