The rotator cuff consists of tendons and muscles surrounding the shoulder joint, holding the upper arm bone in its socket. Rotator cuff injuries can be painful and frustrating. Our team at the Orthopaedic Specialists of Austin provides noninvasive and surgical treatment for rotator cuff injuries at our Austin, TX, and Cedar Park, TX, offices. Contact us today to take your first step toward restoring your shoulder.
What is a Rotator Cuff Injury?
Rotator cuff injuries range in severity from tendon inflammation to complete tears. Patients often complain of a dull ache deep in the shoulder, weakness, and a severely reduced range of motion. If left untreated, these injuries can lead to permanent stiffness, weakness, or progressive degeneration of the muscles and tendons.
The most common causes include:
- Immediate injury: Sometimes a one-time shoulder injury is severe enough to tear or completely sever tendons. This type of damage usually requires immediate treatment.
- Gradual wear and tear: Repetitive arm motion can degrade tissue until painful symptoms arise.
- Bone spur development: The shoulder blade or clavicle can develop extraneous new bone growth, which can irritate the tendons and muscles.
Wear and tear is the most cause of rotator cuff injury, and typically occurs in patients over 40 years old, tennis and baseball players, and construction workers. However, rotator cuff injuries may also have a genetic factor, as many patients have a family history of shoulder problems.
Conservative Treatment Options
Rest, ice, and physical therapy can play a major role in recovery. Physical therapy can restore flexibility and strength. In some cases, these solutions eliminate pain and restore function completely.
If these treatments are ineffective and pain is interfering with sleep or daily routines, steroid injections into the shoulder joint can help. However, overuse of steroids can contribute to tendon weakening, so this treatment is used sparingly.
If you have injured your rotator cuff, our advanced treatments can restore your quality of life.
If conservative treatment fails to provide relief, your tendon may be partially or completely detached from the upper arm bone. In this case, a surgical procedure may be recommended to reattach the damaged tendon.
Surgical treatment options include:
- Arthroscopic tendon repair: An arthroscope is inserted through small incisions in the shoulder. This tiny camera transmits to a video screen and allows surgeons to navigate tissue and repair damage. Because it is minimally invasive, the procedure requires no overnight stay at the hospital, and involves a short recovery time.
- Open tendon repair: If damage is more extensive, your surgeon will make a large incision over the shoulder to view the joint. Open tendon repair requires an overnight stay at the hospital, and recovery takes longer.
- Bone spur removal: When extraneous bone growth irritates the rotator cuff, an arthroscope can be used to remove the spur and smooth the remaining bone.
- Tendon transfer: If the tendon is too damaged to reattach, a nearby tendon can serve as a replacement. Most often taken from the latissimus dorsi muscle in the lower shoulder, the tendon is stretched to the joint and attached to the upper arm bone.
- Shoulder replacement: In severe cases, it may become necessary to replace the joint with an artificial ball and socket.
After surgery, patients need to wear an immobilizer for up to six weeks to prevent arm movement and potential damage during recovery. Meanwhile, extended immobility can lead to a "frozen" shoulder, so recovery involves a series of exercises that become increasingly vigorous over time. Full recovery and improved movement may take up to a year.
Contact Us Today
If you have injured your rotator cuff, our advanced treatments can restore your quality of life. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.