The shoulder is one of the most versatile joints in the body. It allows for full movement of the arm for anything from throwing a baseball to reaching overhead for an item off of a shelf. Its versatility, however, is also its greatest weakness; too much stress on the joint can cause injury to the rotator cuff, most commonly in the form of a rotator cuff tear.
The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons working together in the shoulder that connects the shoulder blade to the upper arm. The muscles allow the shoulder to rotate while the tendons provide stability. When a rotator cuff tear occurs, it is normally due to the tendon(s) fraying over time, but sometimes is the result of acute stress to the tendons. There are two kinds of tears:
There are two general causes of a torn rotator cuff: long-term degeneration of the tendons or an acute injury.
The majority of tears are the result of the tendons wearing down over a long period of time, a degeneration that naturally occurs with age and usually in the dominant arm. Consequently, a degenerative tear in one shoulder can increase the risk for a tear in the opposite shoulder.
There are a few factors that can lead to a degenerative tear of the rotator cuff:
Jarring impacts to the shoulder can cause unnatural stress on the rotator cuff under which the tendons can tear or rupture. This can occur due to incidents such as bracing yourself with your hands during a fall or attempting to lift too much weight.
After discussing medical history, the doctor will do a physical examination, checking for deformities, testing range of motion, and finding where the tissue is most tender. The neck will also be checked to rule out other potential causes, such as an impinged nerve or arthritis.
Imaging tests may also help with a torn rotator cuff diagnosis:
Once a diagnosis of a torn rotator cuff is established, there are a variety of surgical and non-surgical options for treating the condition.
If all other treatment options have been exhausted or if the tear is too severe, your doctor may recommend one of the three common surgical options for repairing a torn rotator cuff:
Early treatment may prevent the symptoms from getting worse, so any chronic pain or pain following injury should be addressed by a doctor as soon as possible.
At UOA, our team of world-class, experienced orthopaedic surgeons bring the latest in techniques and technology to provide the best in comprehensive care. Our department specializes in the care and treatment of conditions of the hand and upper extremity (finger tips to shoulder) including sports injuries and joint replacements of the shoulder, elbow and wrist. Using our unique team approach, we will create a customized treatment plan that is best suited to your needs.
For an appointment at one of our three convenient locations in Somerset, Mercer or Monmouth County, fill out our online form or contact our offices directly via telephone.
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