Rotator cuff disease is a painful condition that can severely limit your shoulder’s range of motion. This article will walk you through how rotator cuff disease can arise and what you can do about it.
What causes rotator cuff disease?
The rotator cuff is composed of four muscles that each have a tendon that connects to the shoulder joint. This collection of muscles and tendons support the shoulder and allow it to move smoothly and stably. The rotator cuff is sensitive, however, to repetitive use and can sometimes strain or tear.
Damage to the rotator cuff is called rotator cuff disease and can be the result of overuse or an acute injury like breaking an arm or dislocating a shoulder. Overuse of the shoulder joint is common in athletes that repetitively use their shoulders like swimmers, throwers, tennis players, and baseball pitchers. The repetitive motion can cause one of the parts of the rotator cuff to strain over time.
Natural aging and deterioration of the shoulder joint from conditions like arthritis or bursitis can cause inflammation that contributes to rotator cuff disease, as well.
What are the symptoms of rotator cuff disease?
Rotator cuff tears can produce the following symptoms:
- Pain or discomfort in the shoulder joint (especially at night when lying on the injured shoulder)
- Limited range of motion in the shoulder
- Difficulty performing normal activities that rely on the shoulder
- Feeling of snapping or grating in the shoulder joint
How is rotator cuff disease diagnosed?
To diagnose rotator cuff disease, a doctor will conduct a physical exam of the injured shoulder to evaluate the range of motion, source of pain, and any swelling. To confirm the diagnosis, a range of imaging tests may be used, including
- X-ray: to examine the neighboring bone for any injuries
- MRI: to examine the soft tissue, tendons, and ligaments of the shoulder
- Arthrogram: involves injecting dye into the injured shoulder joint to more clearly examine tears in the rotator cuff
How is rotator cuff disease treated?
Treatment depends on the severity of damage to the rotator cuff. Preliminary treatments for rotator cuff disease include
- Resting the injured shoulder (avoid physical activity that aggravates the rotator cuff)
- Icing the injured shoulder to relieve inflammation
- Taking anti-inflammatory medications to relieve pain and inflammation in the joint
- Physical therapy exercises that restore and strengthen the muscles of the rotator cuff
For more severe cases, cortisone injections into the rotator cuff can relieve inflammation. Surgery may be necessary if the rotator cuff is causing persistent pain or not healing.
Surgery can either be performed through arthroscopy or open surgery. Arthroscopy involves a surgeon making several small incisions and then inserting a camera and small instruments to view and repair the damaged rotator cuff. Open surgery involves a single larger incision through which the surgeon repairs the tear.
In some cases, the surgeon may perform a subacromial decompression in which part of the bone and soft tissue surrounding the rotator cuff is removed to reduce pressure in the shoulder and allow the damaged rotator cuff to heal.
For more complete tears, a surgeon can suture together the torn tissue of the rotator cuff, allowing it to heal more efficiently.
Treating rotator cuff disease at Midwest Orthopaedic Consultants
Rotator cuff disease can look different for different people, but it almost always leads to pain and discomfort. At Midwest Orthopaedic Consultants, we understand how debilitating shoulder pain from rotator cuff disease can be. Our specialists and surgeons are well-equipped to help
Don’t let rotator cuff disease hold you back from doing what you love. Book an appointment with us right away!
Only a doctor can tell you if you have this ailment. This is for informational purposes and should not be used in lieu of a doctor’s opinion.