The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons in your shoulder that keeps your upper arm bone connected to your shoulder blade. The rotator cuff helps you move your shoulder and arm in different directions, but can become torn when overused or injured.
You might have a torn rotator cuff if you experience pain when you sleep on the affected shoulder or have pain or weakness when you lower or lift your arm.
You can suffer either an acute or degenerative tear of your rotator cuff. Acute tears can happen from accidents like a fall or a sports injury. Degenerative tears occur due to natural wear and tear as your muscles become more susceptible to overuse and strain.
Some activities that put you at a higher risk include:
Dr. Harwood performs a thorough physical exam and studies your medical history. He uses X-rays and other imaging tests to get an overview of your condition. If he determines you have a torn rotator cuff, he may prescribe rest and drugs to relieve pain and swelling.
Physical therapy may help restore more normal movement to your shoulder, and sometimes steroid injections are used to decrease inflammation. If these nonsurgical methods are not successful, surgical treatment is an option.
Dr. Harwood performs shoulder arthroscopy, a surgery that uses a tiny camera called an arthroscope to examine or repair the tissues inside or around your shoulder joint. The arthroscope is inserted through a small incision in your skin.
For most people, general anesthesia is used so that you’re asleep for this surgery. In some cases, a regional anesthesia can be used, where just your arm and shoulder area are numb, but you’ll still be given another medicine to make you very sleepy.
During the procedure, Dr. Harwood brings the edges of the muscles together, and in some cases, he reattaches the tendon to the bone with sutures. He uses small metal or plastic rivets (called suture anchors) to help attach the tendon to the bone.
For most people, a full recovery takes four to six months, depending on the severity of the tear and other factors involved. Dr. Harwood may prescribe pain medication and recommend you wear a sling for a few weeks following your surgery.
Post-surgery physical therapy that includes exercises for both stretching and strengthening is a good way to gradually recapture your range of motion and strength in your shoulder, particularly for athletes in recovery.
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