Your rotator cuff consists of tendons, muscles, ligaments, and bones that work together to connect your upper arm bone to your shoulder socket and collar bone. This intricate network is what enables you to extend, lift, and rotate your shoulder joint.
Because it’s involved in so many movements, your rotator cuff is at risk for wear and tear problems or injury during sports or an accident. In fact, in the United States, an estimated 2 million people seek medical care for rotator cuff injuries each year.
At Next Step Orthopedics, our experienced surgeon, Dr. Dominique Nickson, cares for people in McKinney, Texas, who are suffering from tears in their rotator cuff tendons. Here he shares more about the symptoms of a torn rotator cuff, how it’s diagnosed, and offers some suggestions for nonsurgical treatments for you to consider.
Symptoms of a torn rotator cuff
You’re likely dealing with a rotator cuff tear if you experience:
- Weakness when lifting your arm
- Difficulty reaching behind your back
- Impaired range of motion
- Pain in your shoulder
- Cracking sound when you move your shoulder
Depending on the cause of your tear, the pain may be dull and chronic from aging and degeneration, or sudden and intense, as happens from a fall or hit.
Diagnosing a rotator cuff injury
Dr. Nickson meets with you to discuss your health history, conduct a physical exam, and administer a series of imaging tests, such as X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or ultrasound scans. Depending on the tear’s cause and severity, he works with you to customize solutions that help you regain function in your shoulder.
Nonsurgical treatments for a rotator cuff tear
Dr. Nickson takes the most conservative approach whenever possible. Some of the proven non-surgical methods to heal your rotator cuff tear are:
- Resting your shoulder
- Modifying your activity
- Reducing swelling with hot packs or ice
- Engaging in regular physical therapy
- Getting corticosteroid injections
- Receiving regenerative platelet-rich plasma therapy (PRP)
- Limiting movements
- Wearing a sling
- Restoring strength with targeted exercises
- Decreasing pain with anti-inflammatory medications
If your pain and shoulder problems persist, Dr. Nickson offers arthroscopic surgery, a minimally invasive procedure that allows him to use video technology and tiny tools to make the repair without creating a large incision.