The rotator cuff is a complex network of tendons and muscles that support your shoulder. If this network becomes damaged, you can experience severe pain and lose the ability to use your arm fully. William Ashford, MD, is an experienced orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist serving patients in and around Athens, Georgia. He is an expert in treating rotator cuff tears and restoring shoulder function. If you’re living with bothersome shoulder pain, call Ashford Orthopedic Specialists, or book an appointment online today.
The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that keep your humerus, the main bone in your upper arm, securely seated in your shoulder socket. The tendons that attach the muscles to the bones join the humerus to your shoulder blade and afford you a great range of motion.
When these tendons tear, it causes pain and lack of function of the shoulder. Partial tears damage and weaken the tendon, while complete tears separate the entire tendon from the bone.
Damage to the rotator cuff can occur in two ways:
An acute tear is an injury caused by falling on your arm when it’s stretched out or lifting a heavy object and using poor technique. Acute tears often happen simultaneously when you dislocate your shoulder or are involved in a motor vehicle accident.
Tendon degeneration happens gradually over time, commonly as a result of age-related wear and tear. Degenerative tears often result from repeated arm motions; these types of injuries are common in tennis players and swimmers. Similarly, people who have jobs that require repetitive overhead shoulder movements, like electricians and painters, are also vulnerable to this type of injury.
As you age, the blood supply to the rotator cuff decreases, making it harder for your body to repair the damage. You’re also more likely to develop bone spurs that rub on the rotator cuff, a condition called shoulder impingement.
If your rotator cuff tears suddenly, it’s likely to cause severe pain and immediate loss of function. Degenerative tearing causes:
Some people sustain rotator cuff tears that don’t cause pain, but over time, they may become symptomatic.
Dr. Ashford starts treatment with conservative measures such as brief periods of rest, physical therapy, oral medications, and strengthening exercises.
If your rotator cuff tear isn’t improving, he may also recommend steroid injections or platelet-rich plasma therapy (PRP), a form of regenerative medicine that stimulates healing in targeted areas.
In serious cases of rotator cuff injuries, Dr. Ashford may recommend surgery to repair the torn tendons.
If you have pain in your shoulder or you’re having difficulty using your arm, call Ashford Orthopedic Specialists, or book an appointment online today.