All you need to Know about Rotator Cuff injuries
What is a Rotator Cuff?
A rotator cuff is a group of muscle that surrounds the shoulder joint. This muscle mass provides support to the shoulder blade and the ball and socket joint. In a microscope is perspective, it supports the head of your upper arm bone and adjusts in firmly within the deep cavity of the shoulder.
When you get a tear also known as rotator cuff tendonitis, due to various reasons like injury, there might be a slight dull ache that can differ from person to person. This pain can cause discomfort and can also increase when you sleep on that side or make use of that shoulder.
Risk of getting a rotator cuff tear
A rotator cuff tear usually occurs due to overhead motion. There are other reasons like injury and genetics that can contribute to it. Here are some of the causes and risk factors that cause this injury.
· Occupation and Activities
This is when your job or lifestyle involves a lot of lifting or using overhead motion. Many sportsmen like cricketers, basketball or volleyball players lift the ball above their heads on the daily. This can cause a jerk or a tear in the rotator cuff.
Moreover, there are professions like carpenters, constructors, and electricians that required to use the overhead motion as well. In other terms, these are high-risk jobs that can increase the chances of getting a rotator cuff tear!
It can often occur due to one single injury where your arm gets a jerk and results in a tear. Sometimes while reaching for an object or perhaps lifting a heavy item. You are more prone to an injury if your muscles aren’t used to physical labor.
· Genetic Factors
Moreover, there is also a genetic correlation with the rotator cuff. If you have a family history of getting rotator cuff syndrome, it is likely that you will develop it later on as well. It is better to start taking the appropriate preventative measures.
Another factor that plays a major role is age. The more people age, the more the risk of developing rotator cuff tears. People between the 40 to 70 age bracket are more prone to this ailment. As their muscles age, the risk of injury not only increases; it even takes more time to heal.
Rotator cuff does not require intensive treatment. It takes some minor physical therapy or a shoulder brace to fix the situation, but if it is serious, then it can involve surgery as well. Rotator cuff surgery involves a transfer of alternative tendons and joints!
What does a torn rotator cuff feel like?
Now speaking of symptoms of Rotator cuff. Here are a few that will help you identify your pain and discomfort.
It feels like a deep dull ache in your shoulder. Moreover, it gives you slight discomfort and the usual disturbances that come along with pain. This can mean psychological distress and sleep disturbances. Moreover, you might also feel weakness in your arm while doing day-to-day tasks.
It starts to restrict your movement and range of motion. You also start feeling pain in lifting daily objects or doing simple tasks such as combing your hair or wearing a belt. Any sort of stretching motion or weight can cause a burden on your shoulder, which in turn might cause you to restrict your range of motion.
If you experience such symptoms, then it is recommended that you visit a doctor as soon as possible and get a proper diagnosis. It is better to start with a suitable treatment right away before the situation gets any worse.
Can you prevent a rotator cuff injury?
Prevention is key when it comes to genetic diseases. Whether you are involved in a high-risk job or have a family history of the ailment, there are several ways you can prevent this injury from happening to you!
There are certain rotator cuff exercises and daily shoulder stretches that can strengthen your muscles over time and prevent any future injuries from occurring. The focal point for a rotator cuff is the back-shoulder muscle. You should keep a balance between your shoulder blades when exercising.
The best option, however, is to give your physician a visit. Your doctor can recommend a proper exercise regime according to the history of the ailment and your age. These exercises involve pendulum stretches and lightweight, lifting that you can do on the daily.
Getting a Proper Diagnosis
If you have experienced any symptoms mentioned above, make sure you go to your doctor and get a diagnosis! Then you can begin with the proper treatment as well.
First of all, the doctor will go for a physical exam. The physical exam is to test your range of motion. In this, your arm and shoulders are moved in different positions and directions to see what kind of pain and discomfort you might be experiencing. While this is enough to deduce an abnormality, doctors also go for the second round of imaging tests.
Often an ultrasound is used as a dynamic testing method to assess the structures of your shoulder. An ultrasound shows soft tissues like muscles and tendons.
Both of your shoulders are tested with the ultrasound machine to show a comparison between what a healthy shoulder would look like an what an affected shoulder with a rotator cuff tear would look like.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
An MRI machine consists of a technology that makes use of radio waves. In simpler terms, it is a giant magnet that scans your body. What an MRI machine does, is it produces body images in great detail!
It can show bone structure, tissues, and tendons, which is why it is a great method that can easily identify a rotator cuff tear.
An X-ray machine is usually for the bones. However, it is used such cases to see whether there are other causes that might be causing you pain and discomfort! For example, in older age, arthritis could also be the reason for bone spurs and dull pain.
There are several treatment options that can help you recover fully from a rotator cuff injury. The doctor starts with normal physical therapy or just recommend rest for a few days. Another option is to use a hot and cold press.
Most of the time, when there is an injury involved, you do not need any intensive treatments. You can also from this injury with adequate rest and some light medication. However, in serious cases, you also require rotator cuff surgery
Physical therapy is perhaps the first option the doctor would go for. There are certain exercises that you can do that will help make your muscles flexible and loosen them up. It also helps repair your muscle function faster and speeds up the recovery process.
Another option is to wear a shoulder brace when you get a rotator cuff injury. Shoulder braces remove the extra load from your shoulder and are especially helpful after an injury. They reduce the burden and can help with movements.
Doctors recommend that you wear a brace when you start experiencing shoulder pain and discomfort. It can take anywhere around 6 weeks of regularly wearing a shoulder brace to reduce pain and regain your normal range of motion.
Often times, the pain is a little too irritating and can cause discomfort in your life. It reduces your range of motion, and you want to get rid of it as quickly as possible. This is when a doctor might suggest a cortisone injection.
Steroids can help put your pain at ease and can also help with daily activities and exercises. Aged people cannot exercise their muscles very easily, and injections can help them get a kick start to their recovery.
Doctors also recommend a light painkiller that can help put your pain and discomfort to ease. Pain killers can help with sleep disturbances and the psychological distress that comes along with pain. However, medications offer a solution for the symptoms rather than the cause of the injury.
They can help put you to ease as a temporary solution, but daily exercises should be continued to recover from the ailment fully. Medications are recommended to people over the age of 40 that have trouble exercising on their own.
While most cases of rotator cuff tendonitis heal with exercise and medication, some severe cases require surgical methods. These cases usually have severe tears that cannot be healed on their own. Some of the surgical techniques are listed below:
· Tendon Repair
A tendon repair surgery involves a tiny camera that is inserted into your shoulder. This is via a micro incision to reattach torn tendons to the ball socket of the joint. It is overall a minor surgery and a common option for deeper rotator cuff tears.
· Open tendon repair
Repairing a torn or injured tendon is also an option for people who are aged and are suffering from a rotator cuff pain. A surgeon makes a fairly large incision and reattaches the tendon to the bone. This is a slightly bigger surgery and will require a longer recovery period.
During the recovery period, you can wear a shoulder brace for extra support. It reduces the burden on your shoulder, helps with physical therapy, and speeds up the recovery process.
· Tendon transfer
Sometimes the tendon that has been detached from the bone is too weak to salvage. This is when doctors take surrounding tendons and replace it into the area where it is needed! The surgery requires more time as it is a lot more intensive as compared to other methods.
It can take anywhere around 4 to 6 months of a recovery period along with the proper rotator cuff exercises and physical therapy.
· Shoulder replacements (reverse shoulder arthroplasty)
When a rotator cuff injury is severe, a doctor might recommend an entire shoulder replacement. This is also known as the reverse shoulder arthroplasty. This surgery is much more intricate. It requires an artificial joint, which is made in place of your shoulder.
In other terms, a replica of a bone and socket joint is created to aid you with movement. The recovery period for this is much longer, and it can take anywhere from 4 to 6 months. This is usually for sportsmen who have had serious injuries or aged people.
How long does rotator cuff surgery take?
The duration of a rotator cuff surgery can differ depending on what kind of surgery it is. Normal procedures like tendon repair can take anywhere around 1 to 1.5 hours in the operation theatre. On the other hand, open tendon repair or replacement can last up to 2 hours under anesthesia.
Shoulder replacement surgery, although is a lengthy and intricate procedure. It can take anywhere around 3 to 3.5 hours from start to finish.
How long does it take for a torn rotator cuff to heal without surgery?
There is no specific time to how long your rotator cuff will take to heal. It mostly depends on factors like
- Severity of injury
- Level of discomfort and pain
All these factors play a role in how fast you are likely to recover from a rotator cuff. If you have mild pain, then some light exercise can heal your tear in 1 to 2 months. Although factors like age and seriousness of the injury can delay the healing process, especially for non-surgical options.
However, in general, rotator cuff cans take anywhere around 4 to 6 months to heal. Moreover, it can take up to 12 months to completely recover from any kind of discomfort or pain while doing your day to day tasks.
During this time, patients are suggested to do exercises, keep their muscles strengthened, or take the support of a shoulder brace.
Which shoulder brace will work?
We have seen remarkable recovery times with the Strong AID shoulder brace. Its versatility provides rapid pain relief for rotator cuff injuries frozen shoulder, shoulder bursitis, and general shoulder pain.