Torn Rotator Cuffs

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Surrounding the shoulder joint is a group of tendons and muscles. Known as the rotator cuff, its function is to keep ball portion of your upper arm bone seated firmly within your shoulder socket. A torn rotator cuff can result in a dull aching in the affected shoulder. When you attempt to use your arm in a position away from your body, the pain might get worse.

How Can A Rotator Cuff Be Diagnosed?

There are several causes that could result in a torn rotator cuff. You might experience a significant injury to the arm that is the result of a fall or a car accident. The condition could also be due to wear and tear of the tissues or their progressive degeneration. For example, heavy lifting or repetitive action that involves overhead movement can damage the tendon and tissues or irritate them.

If you have a torn rotator cuff, the pain could make it difficult for you to sleep through the night comfortably, reach behind your back or comb your hair. Often described as a dull ache located deep within your shoulder, you might also experience weakness in the affected arm.

Diagnosing a torn rotator cuff begins with a thorough physical exam of the affected arm. Expect the physician to move your arm in different positions, press on different areas of your shoulder and test the strength of the muscles surrounding your shoulder and in your arms.

Depending on the circumstances, your doctor might also recommend that you have imaging tests that can assist with your diagnosis. While a torn rotator cuff won’t be visible on an x-ray, this test helps rule out other potential causes of your pain like arthritis or bone spurs.

An ultrasound and magentic resonance imaging (MRI) provide your doctor with images of structures within your shoulder. These include the muscles, tendons and more.

Treating a Torn Rotator Cuff

Typically, a torn rotator cuff is first treated with conservative measures that you can do at home such as applying ice to the affected area and resting it. Physical therapy can help increase your flexibility and mobility.

If the pain is interfering with your normal activities, your sleep or with your ability to do physical therapy, your doctor might recommend that you have a steroid injection. Physical therapy is both a common treatment for a torn rotator cuff and a vital part of your recovery if you have surgery. Specific exercises tailored to the particular area of your rotator cuff injury can help increase flexibility and strength.

Surgery is another option for treating a rotator cuff injury. Depending on the cause of the condition and other factors, your doctor might recommend that you have surgery to repair the tendons or to replace the shoulder altogether. A tendon transfer might be required if the tendon too damaged to be repaired.

How an Orthopedic Specialist Can Help

For the best outcome when you have a torn rotator cuff, turn to the specialist who have the experience and expertise to deliver excellent care to you. An orthopedic surgeon can help you regain the full use of your arm and address your pain.


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