Rotator cuff tears in the shoulder are common injuries that affect around 2 million people across the United States each year.
There are three bones in your shoulder. The upper arm bone (humerus) has a ball shape on the end that fits into a socket called the glenoid in your shoulder blade (scapula). The third bone is the clavicle or collarbone on the top of your shoulder.
Holding everything together is a set of muscles and tendons called the rotator cuff. The tendons attach the rotator cuff muscles to your humerus and keep it in place, as well as enabling you to raise and turn your arm.
Rotator cuff tears typically cause the tendons in your shoulder to detach from the head of your humerus. The tearing often starts as fraying in the tendon, which builds to a point where the tendon eventually gives way.
Acute rotator cuff tears happen when you overstress the tendons in your rotator cuff. Falling on your arm when it's stretched out or jerking your shoulder when lifting are common causes of acute tears. Many occur at the same time as a dislocated shoulder or broken clavicle.
Most people tear their rotator cuff because the tendons weaken and wear down over the years. This is more likely to happen if you repetitively use your shoulder, for example, regularly rowing, weightlifting, or playing sports like tennis and baseball.
Poor blood supply due to age-related tissue deterioration can increase the risk of rotator cuff tears. They're also more likely to happen if you have shoulder impingement, where bone spurs develop in the shoulder joint and rub against the tendons.
The treatment program your provider at Beaufort Orthopaedic Sports & Spine draws up for you takes into account factors like your age, lifestyle, other health problems, and the extent of your injuries.
Nonsurgical treatment is the first approach. It's successful in many cases while being low risk and cost-effective. Resting your arm and avoiding activities that irritate the injury is essential. You might need to take anti-inflammatory pain-relieving medication too.
Physical therapy is also vital to build up strength and flexibility in your shoulder without causing further tissue damage. If your shoulder pain persists, an injection of steroid medication and local anesthetic can be helpful for some patients.
If, despite these treatments, your rotator cuff tear isn't healing, you might require surgery to reattach the tendon onto the top of your humerus.
Discover how to regain mobility and reduce rotator cuff tear pain by calling Beaufort Orthopaedic Sports & Spine today, or book an appointment online.