Around two million people seek medical treatment for a rotator cuff tear each year, making it one of the most common causes of shoulder pain. Your shoulder is incredibly mobile, but it is also fairly easy to injure.
At Dr. Louis Keppler & Associates, our expert providers have treated hundreds of patients who have had shoulder injuries, including rotator cuff injuries. We know that it may feel like your life will never be the same, but we also offer numerous treatments that are effective in helping our patients get back to their lives.
The structure of your shoulder
Before we talk about rotator cuff injuries, it may be helpful to describe the different parts of your shoulder. You have greater range of motion in your shoulder than any other joint in your body, and you may not realize just how often you use your shoulder until it’s hurt!
Your shoulder joint is a meeting of three bones: your upper arm bone, which is your humerus; your shoulder blade, or scapula; and your collarbone, or your clavicle. Your humerus ends in a ball, and it sits in a shallow socket on your scapula.
Your rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that hold your humerus in the socket of your scapula. The muscles and tendons of your rotator cuff keep your bones secure and also help you lift your arm.
A small sac called a bursa is between your rotator cuff and the bone on top of your shoulder. The bursa allows the tendons of your rotator cuff to move freely when you move your arm.
Rotator cuff injuries
As you can see, there are many parts to your shoulder joint, and your rotator cuff does an important job. When any of the muscles or tendons that make up your rotator cuff—or the bursa—are damaged or inflamed, the result is pain when you move your arm.
The tendons may fray, or they can tear. In many cases, the injury begins as fraying and progresses to a tear. A partial tear is just what it sounds like; the tendon is torn, but not in two pieces. A full-thickness tear means that your tendon has detached from your bone.
You can tear your rotator cuff suddenly, as in a fall, or it can happen slowly from doing the same action again and again, as happens often to baseball pitchers. In either case, it’s going to hurt until it’s healed.
Treating rotator cuff injuries
We offer several different treatments for rotator cuff injuries, and the one that’s likely to work best for you depends on many factors, such as your age, the cause of your injury, your overall health, the type and location of the tear.
Most of the time, we recommend beginning with the most conservative treatment, so we may suggest that you rest or modify your activities. Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be helpful. In many cases, we recommend physical therapy to help you regain mobility and strength in your injured shoulder. In some cases we recommend injections or surgery.
A shoulder injury is frustrating, because seemingly simple tasks or movements that you never really thought much about before become painful, difficult, or even impossible to do. You may find you need to wear shirts that button, for example, or change how you sleep.
The good news is that most rotator cuff injuries do get better. It takes time, effort, and guidance from an excellent physician. Schedule your appointment at Dr. Louis Keppler & Associates today.