“Arthroscopic repair” can be an intimidating phrase, and those considering arthroscopic rotator cuff repair often have questions. NYC-based orthopedic shoulder surgeon, Dr. Francis Mendoza, is a leader in treating rotator cuff injuries and performing arthroscopic rotator cuff repair surgeries when nonsurgical treatments haven’t been successful. In this blog, Dr. Mendoza will answer some of the most frequently asked questions about arthroscopic rotator cuff repair.
1) What is a rotator cuff injury?
Your rotator cuff consists of the four muscles that support and stabilize your shoulder joint. These are the muscles of the posterior—or rear—shoulder, and together they enable you to rotate your upper arm inward and outward and raise your arms above shoulder level. A rotator cuff injury refers to damage of any of these muscles or the tendons that connect them to your shoulder bones.
Rotator cuff injuries may be as straightforward as tendonitis or as complex as a major tear to multiple tendons. They are commonly the result of repetitive strain or overuse, although they can also occur due to direct trauma to the shoulder. Repeated heavy lifting over a long period of time, repetitive overhead motion (such as swimming or throwing a ball), and bone spurs can all cause rotator cuff injuries.
2) What makes rotator cuff injuries worse?
Rotator cuff injuries cause pain, especially when lifting and lowering your arm. You may also have weakness in the affected arm and shoulder. The pain may be worse when you’re resting or when sleeping at night, particularly if you’re lying on the injured shoulder. You may also feel a crackling or popping sensation when you move your shoulder.
Anything that puts pressure or strain on the shoulder may make symptoms worse, including:
- Carrying a purse or bag on your shoulder or in the crook of your arm
- Sleeping on your side
- Anything that forces you to hold your arm in one position for too long, particularly if you must hold it in front of you. This includes driving or keeping your hand on the mouse while seated at the computer.
- Holding anything heavy for an extended period of time, whether it’s a bag of groceries or a child
3) Do all rotator cuff injuries require surgery?
Not all cases of rotator cuff injuries require surgery — particularly if treated in the early stages. The appropriate treatment depends on the type of injury you have and the severity of it. In more serious cases, surgery may be recommended in order to deliver long-term relief.
4) What should I expect if I decide to undergo arthroscopic rotator cuff repair?
There are numerous types of rotator cuff repair surgeries, and your orthopedic surgeon will recommend a procedure after assessing your unique needs. Arthroscopic repair is the least invasive type of rotator cuff surgery. It uses a small tube called an arthroscope, which is inserted directly into the joint through a small incision.
Arthroscopic surgery involves the use of a tiny camera to transmit a detailed view of the joint interior to a television screen so the surgeon can visualize the joint without physically exposing it or detaching muscles. When the arthroscope is in place, small surgical tools are inserted through another small incision, and the repair is made with the aid of camera imagery. Arthroscopic rotator cuff repair is often done on an outpatient basis. It carries fewer risks than more invasive, open shoulder surgery.
5) How long will recovery take after an arthroscopic rotator cuff repair?
Although it varies from patient to patient, an arthroscopic rotator cuff repair typically means a recovery period of several months, with immobilization directly following surgery and a physician-supervised passive exercise program starting after 4-6 weeks. Most patients have a functional range of motion and adequate strength by 4 to 6 months after surgery.
Get More Information About Arthroscopic Rotator Cuff Repair
Rotator cuff injuries can seriously impact your quality of life. For more in-depth answers about arthroscopic rotator cuff repair, or to discuss your treatment options for a rotator cuff injury, schedule your consultation with Dr. Francis Mendoza today.