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Orthopedic Surgery

A rotator cuff is a group of four muscles and tendons that are tasked with the role of stabilizing the shoulder. They aid in keeping the head of the upper arm bone firmly within the shallow socket of the shoulder. They also help in movement. Every time a person moves the shoulder, he/she uses the rotator cuff to stabilize and help move the joint. Injury to the rotator cuff is common, and the most common injuries are strains, tears, and tendonitis.

Causes of Rotator Cuff Injuries

The following are the common causes of rotator cuff strains or tears:

  • Acute injury
  • Overuse
  • Wear and tear over time

Injuries associated with rotator cuff often range from mild to severe. They typically fall into one of two groups:

  • Acute
  • Chronic

Chronic tendinitis is frequently caused by overusing the rotator cuff muscle. This makes it to become irritated. The tendons that attach muscles to bones are prone to partial or full tears as well as overstretching (strain). Acute injuries occur as a result of a one-time incident.

Symptoms of Rotator Cuff Injuries

  • Pain in the shoulders, experienced mostly at night
  • Difficulty reaching out to the side
  • Trouble reaching behind the back
  • Significant pain that makes one avoid certain activities
  • Pain when reaching overhead

Who is at Risk for Rotator Cuff Injuries?

Acute injuries mostly result from a single incidence. These can be brought on by falling, lifting something that is excessively heavy, or having the shoulder pulled into an unnatural position. Young individuals are more susceptible to this type of rotator cuff injury.

Degenerative injuries are due to long-term overuse. Those who are most vulnerable to these injuries are:

  • Older people above age 40
  • Athletes especially baseball players, tennis players, rowers, and wrestlers
  • Individuals with jobs that necessitate frequent lifting such as painters

Diagnosis of Rotator Cuff Injuries

During the diagnosis of a rotator cuff injury, the doctor inquires about the patient’s medical history, conducts a physical exam, and recommends imaging scans.

The doctor will also ask about the patient’s work-related physical activity. These inquiries will help determine if he/she is more likely to get a degenerative condition.

The patient’s strength and range of motion will also be evaluated. The doctor will also rule out related conditions including arthritis and pinched nerves.

Imaging scans like X-rays can be used to find any bone spurs. The rotator cuff tendon may be rubbed against by these tiny bone growths, which can lead to discomfort and irritation.

Other imaging tests such as MRI or ultrasound scans will be used to examine soft tissues such as tendons and muscles.

Treatment of Rotator Cuff Injuries

Treatments for this condition may range from resting the injured arm to surgery. A rotator cuff tear caused by tendinitis can develop into a more serious ailment over time. The damage can be prevented from worsening by seeking treatment as soon as possible.

The following are some of the non-surgical treatments that can be used to improve the symptoms:

  • Physical therapy
  • Injecting cortisone, a steroid that helps to reduce inflammation, into the afflicted area
  • Treating the injured shoulder with hot or cold packs to minimize swelling
  • Resting the injured arm and using a sling to restrict arm motions
  • Anti-inflammatory over the counter (OTC) medication

Complications of a Rotator Cuff Injury

  • Permanent stiffness
  • Loss of motion
  • Reduced cuff strength
  • Frozen shoulder

 

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