Massive Rotator Cuff Tear Overview
The rotator cuff is a system of tendons and muscles in the shoulder that give the joint stability and offer an incredible range of motion. The job of the rotator cuff is to provide rotation and strength to the arm, allowing it to move, lift and turn while remaining stable within the joint. The grouping of muscles come together as tendons and insert on the ball of the humerus (upper arm bone) to hold the ball of the humerus firmly in place within the glenoid (shallow socket of the shoulder blade).
A massive rotator cuff tear occurs If there is an injury to two or more of these tendons, tearing the cuff of tissue away from the attachment site on the bone. Dr. Nikhil Verma, orthopedic shoulder surgeon, is able to successfully treat patients in Westchester, Oakbrook, Hinsdale and the surrounding Chicago, IL who have suffered a massive rotator cuff tear.
What causes a massive rotator cuff tear?
Massive rotator cuff tears can occur from:
- Overuse: Activities that repeat an overhead motion can cause a massive rotator cuff tear, these overuse injuries are often seen in weightlifters, or workers whose job requires continuous motion above shoulder level. Athletes at risk for a massive rotator cuff tear from overuse include swimmers, weightlifters, gymnasts and those who participate in racquet sports.
- Age and Degeneration: As we age the tendons and muscles naturally lose their flexibility and strength. The body’s ability to heal and regenerate also diminishes and it becomes easier to injure the tendons and muscles in the shoulder.
- Injury: Massive rotator cuff tears can occur during trauma, an automobile accident, sports injury or a serious fall.
What are the symptoms of a massive rotator cuff tear?
Depending on the mechanism of injury, symptoms can be sudden and severe, or they can worsen over time. Symptoms common with a massive rotator cuff tear are:
- Significant pain, either over time or at the time of injury
- Pain that prevents sleep and worsens during the night
- Decreased range of motion
- Weakness in the arm and shoulder
- Joint tenderness
- Pain and problems reaching or lifting objects, especially overhead
How are massive rotator cuff tears diagnosed?
Dr. Verma will conduct a thorough examination, testing areas of pain, range of motion and the strength of the shoulder joint. He will inquire about the patient’s history and what led to the shoulder pain the patient is experiencing. Diagnostic tests helpful in determining if there is a massive rotator cuff tear include and MRI scan which can help Dr. Verma determine the extent of damage within the shoulder.
How is a massive rotator cuff tear treated?
Massive rotator cuff tears often worsen over time and require surgical intervention for repair. Dr. Verma prefers an arthroscopic treatment for the majority of massive tears, offering patient in the Chicago area a quicker healing time, less pain and less chance of infection. The surgery is performed using a small camera called an arthroscope, inserted into the shoulder joint through a small incision. Small, specialized instruments are also used, inserted into the shoulder through other small incisions and the repair is done inside the joint. Dr. Verma secures the torn tendons to the original attachment site using specialized surgical sutures.
What is the recovery like after a massive rotator cuff repair?
Patients heal at different rates, depending on their age, health and medical condition. Dr. Verma has an extensive recovery guideline that if followed properly, offers patients the best chance at a full recovery. In general, patients will begin passive motion exercises (someone else moving the arm) 2 weeks after surgery. Active motion exercises (patient moves their own arm) are allowed 6-8 weeks after surgery. Physical therapy and strengthening exercises can be performed after proper healing, in about 10-12 weeks and will continue until Dr. Verma releases them from care.
For more information and resources on massive rotator cuff tears and the repair options available, please contact the office of Nikhil Verma, MD, orthopedic shoulder surgeon, serving Westchester, Oakbrook, Hinsdale and the surrounding Chicago, IL communities.