If you’ve injured yourself and now find yourself suffering from a torn rotator cuff, you may be wondering what this means for you. You’re not alone. A torn rotator cuff is a common cause of pain and disability for many adults.
A torn rotator cuff weakens your shoulder. This can make some daily activities—such as brushing your hair or even getting dressed—more difficult or even painful to do.
In this blog, orthopedic shoulder surgeon Dr. Francis Mendoza will explain what you can expect after you suffered from a torn rotator cuff.
What causes a torn rotator cuff?
The rotator cuff is a thick band of muscles and tendons covering the top of the upper arm and holding it in place. It stabilizes the shoulder joint and provides its wide range of motion. It consists of four muscles and their associated tendons, which connect them to the bones of the shoulder. When you suffer a rotator cuff tear, these tendons can be partially or even completely torn.
Rotator cuff tears most often happen as the result of overuse of the rotator cuff muscles over an extended period of time. Because of this, the injury is most commonly seen in people who are over the age of 40. And though rotator cuff tears are most often the result of repetitive strain, they can also occur as the result of a traumatic injury.
What are the different types of a torn rotator cuff?
When one of the rotator cuff tendons—or more than one—is torn, it’s no longer firmly connected to the head of the humerus (the upper arm bone.)
Most tears occur in the supraspinatus muscle or tendon, which are located on the upper edge of the shoulder blade, but tears can occur in other parts of the rotator cuff. Often, the tendon begins to weaken and frays slowly over time. As the damage becomes worse, an incident such as lifting a heavy object can cause the tendon to tear completely.
There are two types of rotator cuff tears:
- Partial tears, which damages the soft tissue but doesn’t completely sever it
- Full-thickness tears, which are also called “complete tears.” This type of tear splits the soft tissue into two separate and distinct pieces.
What are the treatment options for a torn rotator cuff?
Many rotator cuff tears can be treated with non-surgical methods. These focus both on relieving pain and on restoring the shoulder’s function.
Non-surgical interventions include:
- Resting the shoulder
- Using a sling to immobilize it
- Taking anti-inflammatory medications
- Steroid Injections
- Physical Therapy
If your pain doesn’t improve with non-surgical treatment, your doctor may recommend surgery. Continued pain is the primary indication for surgery, and surgery may be recommended if:
- You’ve had symptoms for six months to a year
- You have a large tear (more than 3 cm)
- Your shoulder is significantly weaker than it was and its function is impaired
- Your tear was caused by a recent, acute injury.
Where can I find surgery for a rotator cuff in NYC?
Rotator cuff surgery in NYC may be performed arthroscopically or through an open procedure, depending on the type of tear and its severity. Both kinds of procedures are commonly performed under general anesthesia, although with arthroscopic procedures local anesthesia to numb the shoulder and arm may be an option. The purpose of rotator cuff surgery is to reattach the tendon to the arm bone and to remove any loose fragments from the shoulder.
In the arthroscopic procedure, a thin tube and tiny surgical instrument are inserted into the shoulder through several small incisions. Mounted on the tube is a camera, which broadcasts images to a television monitor. This allows the surgeon to visualize the area without making a large incision, which means a shorter recovery time than with the traditional open surgery. Open surgery is now generally only chosen for very large or complex tears.
If you have recently suffered from a rotator cuff injury, schedule your consultation with Dr. Mendoza today.