The shoulder is one small part of our overall anatomy, and yet it is also highly complex. In fact, the shoulder joint is one of the most fascinating of all body parts. This localized area is supposed to maintain an incredibly high arc of motion compared to all of the other joints. It enables us to perform countless activities, from lifting objects off the ground to brushing our hair. Because we rely on the shoulder joint numerous times a day, pain from an injury can be very frustrating. Often, shoulder pain stems from a rotator cuff tear.
The rotator cuff is the part of the shoulder that is made up of four individual muscles and tendons. These structures surround the bony and cartilaginous center of the shoulder joint. A rotator cuff tear means that the tendons that secure muscle to bone have sustained some degree of damage.
Signs of a Rotator Cuff Tear
A torn rotator cuff can present a few common symptoms. Sometimes, however, patients do not experience any significant signs of their injury. The most common indication of a rotator cuff tear is pain in the top of the arm and top of the shoulder. Pain can also travel down the outside of the upper arm, stopping at the elbow. The shoulder area may also feel generally weak, making it difficult to lift the arm overhead, carry objects, or get dressed. Shoulder weakness may be primary, caused when the muscle does not function. It may also be secondary, caused by pain.
Treating the Torn Rotator Cuff
Treatment for a torn rotator cuff is only necessary when pain is present and either persists or recurs. In addition to conducting a general consultation, medical history, and exam, an orthopedic physician will also order x-rays or other diagnostic imaging as needed to fully observe the injured joint. Based on the findings of diagnostic evaluation, a treatment plan is developed to restore comfort and function.
A rotator cuff tear may be encouraged to self-repair. This treatment protocol may involve oral or injected medications to soothe inflammation and reduce pain. Specific physical therapy exercises are also prescribed to increase strength and mobility. Only in severe cases is surgery typically recommended.
Individuals with shoulder pain that suggests a rotator cuff tear should not self-diagnose or self-treat. A doctor’s care is vital to optimal healing. To consult with an experienced orthopedic surgeon about shoulder pain, call (973) 942-1315. We proudly serve areas in and around Wayne, Clifton, and Parsippany, NJ.