You may have learned in school that your shoulder joint is a ball-and-socket joint. If you could see it, you might think that “ball resting in a shallow dish” would be a more accurate description.
Your rotator cuff, a group of soft tissues surrounding your shoulder joint, holds the ball that is the end of your upper arm bone in the indentation of your shoulder blade.
At Orthocenter, our expert providers treat patients with rotator cuff injuries, and there are plenty! Each year more than 2 million Americans have a rotator cuff injury. Our experts suggest the best treatment path depends on the severity of your injury, how your rotator cuff is injured, and other factors.
Take a moment as we describe some of the common treatments for rotator cuff tears, but it’s important to remember that your doctor suggests a treatment based on your individual situation. It’s always best to get advice based on your circumstances.
If your rotator cuff tear is mild, your doctor may want to take a conservative approach to treatment. This type of treatment gives your body a chance to heal, and it requires some patience.
Rest is the first element. Some rotator cuff tears are the result of overuse. If your job requires you to reach overhead repeatedly, for instance, you may sustain a rotator cuff tear. Rest can be more difficult than most people imagine, but it’s important.
Using ice is a good way to ease pain and reduce inflammation. Your doctor can give you specific instructions on where to place the ice, or what sort of ice pack to use, as well as how often you should apply ice to your injury.
Physical therapy may be an element in your recovery. Physical therapy can help you safely regain strength in your shoulder. Specific exercises to strengthen and stretch the muscles around your shoulder may also help you avoid future injury.
Depending on your progress with conservative treatments, your doctor may recommend injections into your shoulder to help with pain and reduce inflammation.
Most people find the injections helpful, but they can weaken your shoulder cuff if they’re used too often.
If your rotator cuff tear is severe, surgery may be the best option. Surgery can reattach a fully torn tendon, transfer a tendon to the injured area, or replace your entire shoulder joint.
The least invasive and most common type of surgery to correct a rotator cuff tear is arthroscopic surgery. In this procedure, your doctor makes two very small incisions, and uses a tiny camera and light to perform the repair. Arthroscopic surgery requires less recovery time than open surgery, and it carries fewer risks.
Open surgery is more traditional, and may be necessary depending on your injury. This surgery is recommended in cases where the injury is complex, or if you’re having a tendon transfer. Joint replacement surgery is less common, but depending on your injury, it could be your best option.
Your shoulder is a complex joint, and it can be injured through acute trauma, overuse, and degenerative diseases, among other causes. Injuries can be mild to severe, and it’s very important to have an evaluation and get expert guidance in deciding which treatment option is likely to have the best outcome for you.
Schedule an appointment at one of the three Orthocenter locations — in Red Bank, Morganville, and Holmdel, New Jersey — today. Our doctors are happy to discuss your situation and answer your questions.