A rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that support and stabilize each shoulder joint. When you rotate your upper arm inwards or outwards or you lift your arm above shoulder level, you are relying upon your rotator cuff to perform these movements. Rotator cuff injuries are defined as any damage to these rear shoulder muscles or the tendons that connect them to your shoulder bones. The injury typically causes a dull ache or pain in the shoulder.
At Mirza Orthopedics, the premier orthopedic hand, wrist, elbow & shoulder center on Long Island, we specialize in diagnosing and treating rotator cuff injuries, ranging from simple inflammation to complex rotator cuff tears. The first step to obtaining pain relief from a rotator cuff injury is scheduling a consultation with our Long Island shoulder specialists. We offer the latest surgical and nonsurgical treatment options for all types of upper extremity conditions, providing personalized care for patients in Suffolk County, Nassau County, and beyond. You can schedule an appointment using the form on this page.
What causes rotator cuff injuries?
Rotator cuff injuries are commonly caused by repetitive strain or overuse, but they can also occur as a result of a traumatic injury. Repetitive overhead movements, such as heavy lifting, throwing a ball, or painting can all cause wear and tear on the tendon tissue, resulting in a painful rotator cuff injury.
You may be more likely to develop a rotator cuff injury if:
- You are over the age of 40
- You participate in sports or activities that require repetitive overhead arm motions, such as baseball, softball, weightlifting, tennis and swimming
- Your occupation requires repetitive overhead arm motions, such as painting or construction work
- You have bone spurs on the underside of the acromion bone
What are the symptoms of a rotator cuff injury?
If you have a rotator cuff injury you will likely experience:
- A dull ache in the shoulder
- Pain when lifting or lowering the arm
- Weakness in the affected arm and shoulder
- Nighttime shoulder pain, particularly when lying on the affected shoulder
- A crackling sensation when you move your shoulder
- Difficulty reaching behind your back
If you’ve suffered from an acute rotator cuff tear, you may also experience:
- Intense shoulder pain
- A snapping sensation at the time of the injury
- Immediate weakness in the upper arm
Most rotator cuff injuries develop as a result of degeneration, with symptoms developing gradually over the course of several weeks or months. Over time, the pain may become more noticeable (even at rest), resulting in increasing difficulty with everyday activities.
What does treatment for a rotator cuff injury entail?
If left untreated, a rotator cuff injury may lead to permanent shoulder stiffness or weakness, which is why a proper medical evaluation is recommended when symptoms first appear.
For some patients, treatment for a rotator cuff injury may involve conservative measures to relieve pain and improve shoulder function, including:
- Modifying activities that cause shoulder pain
- Wearing a sling to keep the shoulder still
- Taking anti-inflammatory medications
- Completing stretching and strengthening exercises
- Getting steroid injections
Conservative treatment for degenerative rotator cuff injuries caused from wear and tear may be effective at providing symptom relief. However, if these treatment options are not successful or if you have experienced a significant rotator cuff tear, surgery may be necessary to deliver long-term relief and restore shoulder strength. Rotator cuff repair surgery involves re-attaching the tendon to the head of the humerus, which can often be done arthroscopically via small incisions.
If you are suffering from the symptoms of a rotator cuff injury, the first step to relieving your discomfort is to have a consultation with our Smithtown orthopedic practice to learn about your options. Contact Mirza Orthopedics today to schedule an appointment.