Your shoulder is one of the largest, strongest, and most flexible joints in your body. It provides your upper extremities with an incredible range of motion, made possible by a complex network of bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments working together.
This huge joint is a crucial part of your daily life and activities, which means it’s also extremely vulnerable to injury and damage. Among the most common shoulder injuries is a rotator cuff tear, which impacts over 3 million people every year.
Here, our team of experts at Somers Orthopaedic Surgery & Sports Medicine Group presents a closer look at your rotator cuff and explores all the different treatment options we offer when you sustain a tear.
A rotator cuff review
Your rotator cuff is a group of four muscles and tendons that surround your shoulder joint. Its main responsibility is to keep the head of your upper arm bone firmly inside the socket of your shoulder.
There are two main types of rotator cuff tears: partial and full-thickness. Partial — also known as incomplete tears — occur when there’s damage to the tendon, but it isn't completely severed. Full-thickness tears are complete tears that sever the tendon from the bone.
A rotator cuff tear can cause a variety of symptoms that range in severity, but the most common symptoms are:
- Pain while at rest and at night
- Pain with arm movement
- Arm weakness
- Cracking sensation in the shoulder
Virtually anyone can tear their rotator cuff. Sometimes, tears are the result of catching yourself when falling or lifting a heavy object, and they may accompany other injuries, such as a broken bone or dislocated shoulder.
Most rotator cuff tears stem from a gradual wearing down of the tendons over time. You may be at risk for a degenerative tear if you play a sport like baseball or tennis, or have a job that requires repetitive shoulder motions, such painting or construction.
Age also plays a role in degenerative rotator cuff tears. As you get older, you lose much of the blood supply to your tendons, which interferes with your body’s ability to heal. Bone spurs can also develop more frequently as you age and often form on the bones in your shoulder, which may contribute to an increased risk of tears.
Whatever has caused your rotator cuff tear, our team of orthopedic experts curates a treatment plan to fit into your lifestyle and give you the lasting pain relief and genuine healing you need.
Treating your rotator cuff tear
Rotator cuff tears can bring life to a grinding halt, especially if you rely on your shoulder for your sport or job. We take the time to completely understand your situation, using advanced imaging technology like X-rays, MRIs, and ultrasound to get detailed insight into your injury.
Then, we create a customized treatment plan to address your specific needs. Sometimes, your body simply needs rest, a brace, or medication to recover from the injury on its own. Other times, we recommend a certain treatment or combination of treatments to repair damage and relieve pain. Here’s more information on some of the most common rotator cuff treatments.
Physical therapy is a conservative treatment, and it’s typically one of the first we recommend. The exercises you do in physical therapy target the specific muscles in your shoulder, strengthening them and restoring flexibility.
Electrical stimulation therapy is a modality under the physical therapy umbrella. It involves placing electrodes on your skin. These electrodes are connected to a machine that sends steady pulses of electricity into your shoulder muscles and tendons.
The electric pulses make your muscles contract, which strengthens them and restores function.
We offer steroid injections for rotator cuff injuries. Steroid injections are minimally invasive treatments that deliver anti-inflammatory medication directly into your damaged rotator cuff, helping your shoulder heal more quickly and you feel less pain. We typically do not prefer to give multiple steroid injections into the shoulder within short time periods.
Regenerative medicine refers to natural treatments that use cells and growth factors from your own body to accelerate and facilitate the healing process. We offer two of the industry’s leading regenerative medicine treatments: platelet-rich plasma (PRP) and stem cell therapy. We help you decide which is right for you depending on your needs.
Sometimes, your rotator cuff tear is so severe, the tendon has completely separated from the bone, or you aren't responding to conservative treatment. When that’s the case, we may recommend surgery.
We perform a variety of shoulder surgeries. Different types of rotator cuff tears may call for different surgical options. We offer minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery to either repair or reconstruct the rotator cuff, and sometimes open surgeries may be required to repair the rotator cuff or even to perform a shoulder replacement if the rotator cuff cannot be repaired. We discuss and use the surgical method that best addresses your specific situation.
If you’d like more information or suspect that you have a rotator cuff injury, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment online or over the phone. We’re conveniently located in Carmel, Newburgh, Mt. Kisco, and Fishkill, New York, as well as in Danbury, Connecticut. We also offer walk-in hours from 5-7pm Monday through Thursday at our Danbury location.