Rotator cuff tears and your treatment options

Your rotator cuff is the network of muscles and tendons that hold your arm in your shoulder socket. Rotator cuff injuries are common among adults. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, nearly 2 million people in the United States sought medical treatment for rotator cuff tears in 2008 alone.

A torn or injured rotator cuff will weaken your arm, making everyday activities more difficult to accomplish. You may have trouble lifting things, brushing your hair or even getting dressed in the morning. If you have shoulder or arm pain or weakness, and suspect you have a torn or injured rotator cuff, contact us immediately []. We can help.

Click here for more information about rotator cuff care and tears.

Non-surgical treatment options for a torn rotator cuff
Approximately half of all rotator cuff injuries respond well to non-surgical treatment options, such as rest, steroids or physical therapy. When you come to Blue Ridge Orthopaedic and Spine Center with shoulder pain, we will discuss a variety of non-surgical treatment options that may work to relieve your pain and heal your shoulder. Depending upon your injury, we may try:

  • rest
  • change in behavior, so as to avoid movements that cause shoulder pain
  • anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen or naproxen
  • strength-building exercises and/or physical therapy
  • steroid injection

Click here to watch a few strength-building videos that may help prevent or rehabilitate a torn rotator cuff. If you are already suffering shoulder pain, please do not attempt these exercises until first speaking to one of our shoulder specialists.

Surgical treatment options for a torn rotator cuff

Some rotator cuff injuries simply do not respond to non-surgical treatment or physical therapy. Other injuries may be too severe to treat without surgery. In general, we will consider surgical treatment for your rotator cuff tear if:

  • your pain or weakness has persisted for 6 months or longer
  • you have a large tear in your rotator cuff
  • you are suffering from significant weakness and/or loss of function in your shoulder or arm
  • your rotator cuff tear was caused by a recent or severe injury

Our surgical options fit into three categories:

  • Open Surgery is often required if the tear is large or complex, or if additional reconstruction is required.
  • Mini Open Surgery combines elements of arthroscopic surgery and open surgery, and allows the surgeon to use a smaller incision when repairing the torn rotator cuff.
  • Arthroscopic surgery is the least invasive of the surgical treatment options, and is often completed as an outpatient procedure. During arthroscopic surgery, the surgeon inserts a small camera — an arthroscope — into the shoulder joint, and uses the video images provided by the camera to guide miniature surgical instruments and make the repair. Several of our surgeons specialize in arthroscopic surgery.

Start on your path to recovery today

If you suspect you have a torn or injured rotator cuff, please contact us today. Whether your shoulder requires rest, physical therapy or arthroscopic surgery, our shoulder specialists are here to help.

Learn more

Our shoulder specialist, Dr. Ralph Garretson, is giving a free lecture on should pain and treatment at Fauquier Hospital on Thursday, October 18 at 7 p.m. The lecture will be held in the Sycamore Room, and is open to the public. Please come join us; call 540-316-3588 or click here to register and reserve your space for the October 18 shoulder pain lecture.

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