Rotator Cuff Injury Overview
The shoulder joint is a highly active joint that allows the largest range of motion of any other joint. A group of four muscles-tendons, commonly known as the “rotator cuff,” surround the shoulder joint and provide strength and allow for overhead motion of the arm. A rotator cuff injury is very common in both young and adult patients. Rotator cuff injuries can occur from a fall, sports injury, repetitive overhead arm movement and degeneration of the tendon. Dr. Nikhil Verma, shoulder specialist serving the Chicago, Westchester, Oak Brook and Hinsdale, Illinois area, is extremely skilled in treating a torn rotator cuff and returning patients to an active lifestyle.
A rotator cuff injury can occur when any of the four muscle-tendon groups become damaged or injured. If damaged, a loss of mobility and severe pain may occur. This is commonly characterized by a “tearing” or separation of the tendon attachment off of the humerus.
A torn rotator cuff can occur due to several factors, including:
- Acute injury- The rotator cuff becomes injured due to a fall, sports injury, automobile accident or other trauma. Immediate pain and functional loss are noted.
- Chronic overuse- The rotator cuff becomes damaged due to continuous, repetitive movement in sports activities such as swimming, tennis and baseball pitching. Overuse can also be caused by repetitive work lifting. In addition, rotator cuff tears can occur as a function of aging due to tendon degeneration.
- Degeneration- The rotator cuff can tear as a patient ages and degeneration of the muscles and tendons occur along with normal wear and tear.
Any of these factors can contribute to a torn rotator cuff. Other common conditions, such as tendonitis and impingement, can also contribute to a rotator cuff injury.
Symptoms of a Rotator Cuff Injury
The most common symptoms of a torn rotator cuff are sharp shoulder pain, weakness and tenderness of the shoulder. These symptoms arise from the inflammation that accompanies the damage. Everyday activities, such as lying down on the affected shoulder, lifting the arm and carrying an item, will create pain. Patients often report pain over the lateral (outside) portion of the arm which may radiate to the elbow and pain at night.
Diagnosis of a Torn Rotator Cuff
In order to determine the extent of rotator cuff damage, Dr. Verma will conduct a thorough examination and will look for any deformities, weakness or muscle wasting in the affected shoulder. He will carefully assess range of motion and strength, as well as manipulate the bones and muscles to find areas of tenderness and pain. In addition, a variety of tests may be utilized to determine the muscle and tendon damage including X-rays and an MRI.
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Treatment for a Torn Rotator Cuff
A rotator cuff injury may be treated without surgery in many cases. The success of non-surgical treatment depends on the type of rotator cuff injury, the size of the tear and patient activity level.
The goal of non-surgical treatment is to reduce inflammation and strengthen the uninjured shoulder muscles to compensate for the torn rotator cuff. Ice and heat, rest, physical therapy and the use of medications may be used to alleviate pain and encourage healing. In addition, cortisone injections may be used to alleviate pain and allow for improved function.
Have you sustained an rotator cuff injury?
There are two ways to initiate a consultation with Dr. Verma:
You can provide current X-rays and/or MRIs for a clinical case review with Dr. Verma ($250).
You can schedule an office consultation with Dr.
If surgery is recommended, Dr. Verma will present the options and discuss the outcome and benefits of each procedure. Age, activity level and injury severity will all be taken into account in the decision process.
If surgery is needed, Dr. Verma strives to achieve maximum recovery with minimal surgery using an arthroscopic rotator cuff repair. With this procedure, a torn rotator cuff is repaired through a series of small incisions. A small camera is used to view the damaged area on a large television screen. With the help of the large view, Dr. Verma is then able to insert small surgical instruments to repair the injury. The advantage of arthroscopic surgery is less pain and a faster return to activity in many cases.
For more information on rotator cuff injuries, or for additional resources on rotator cuff injury treatment, please contact the office of Dr. Nikhil Verma, shoulder specialist treating patients living in the communities of Chicago, Westchester, Oak Brook and Hinsdale, Illinois.