What is a Rotator Cuff Tear?
The rotator cuff is a group of tendons in the shoulder joint that provides support and enables a wide range of motion. Unfortunately, the wide range of motion of the shoulder makes it prone to injuries of the rotator cuff. Rotator cuff tears are some of the most common causes of shoulder pain in people over the age of 50.
What are the Causes of Rotator Cuff Tears?
A rotator cuff tear may occur with repeated use of the arm for overhead activities, while playing sports, or from a fall or other accident.
What are the Symptoms of Rotator Cuff Tears?
A rotator cuff tear causes severe pain, weakness of the arm and crackling sensation on moving the shoulder in certain positions. There may be stiffness, swelling, loss of movement and tenderness in the front or side of the shoulder.
How is a Rotator Cuff Tear Diagnosed?
Your surgeon diagnoses a rotator cuff tear based on a physical examination and imaging studies. A rotator cuff tear is best viewed on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
What are the Treatment Options for Rotator Cuff Tears?
The conservative treatment options for rotator cuff tears are:
- Shoulder Sling
- Pain medication
- Injection of a steroid (cortisone) and a local anesthetic in the subacromial space of the affected shoulder to relieve inflammation and pain
Surgery for Rotator Cuff Tears
Rotator cuff repair may be performed using arthroscopic surgery. In arthroscopy, very small incisions (known as portals) allow the surgeon to see the damaged tendons. The cuff tear is repaired using suture anchors. These anchor sutures help in attaching the tendons to the shoulder bone. Following the surgery, the tendon must be protected to allow it to heal to the bone. There are important restrictions to follow right after surgery. Physical therapy is employed to guide patients through the rehabilitation process.
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