Shoulder pain is a pretty common medical complaint, especially for people who use their shoulders or upper arms a lot and for older people, too. Rotator cuff injuries are a fairly common cause of shoulder pain, and every year in the United States, about 2 million people seek medical care for rotator cuff problems.
Dominique Nickson, MD, and the team at Next Step Orthopedics use advanced methods to diagnose and evaluate rotator cuff injuries in McKinney, Texas, recommending treatment focused on each patient’s unique symptoms, lifestyle, and other factors. If you have a rotator cuff injury, here’s how Dr. Nickson and his team can help you.
Quick facts about your rotator cuff
Your shoulder is a ball-and-cup joint, where the rounded head of your upper arm bone rotates within a cup-shaped socket in your shoulder bone. The rotator cuff is a collection of muscles and tendons that work together to hold the joint together, stabilize it, and support a wide range of movements.
Most rotator cuff injuries are caused by repetitive use or overuse — for instance, performing activities that require lifting or reaching over your head. Sports activities that involve throwing or swinging are other common causes. Less often, you can injure your rotator cuff by falling on your outstretched arm or by a hard blow or impact.
Rotator cuff injuries typically are associated with shoulder pain ranging from a deep, dull ache to a sharper pain focused in and around the joint. You might have shoulder stiffness and decreased range of motion. Some people notice a crackling or grating sensation when they lift their arms or reach for an object.
Treating rotator cuff injuries
Rotator cuff injuries can often be treated conservatively, avoiding the need for shoulder surgery.
Resting your shoulder for brief periods is OK, but overall, you want to maintain some level of activity to prevent your shoulder from getting stiff or “frozen.” Dr. Nickson recommends modification of activities combined with intermittent rest to avoid overstressing your rotator cuff.
Physical therapy typically begins once healing is underway. Your therapy program will be tailored to your needs, but in most cases, exercises will focus on restoring shoulder strength and mobility while also improving circulation for better healing.
Oral medicines help relieve pain and inflammation, too. Over-the-counter pain and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines provide ample relief for most people, with no need for prescription medications.
Using a sling
When your arm hangs at your side, you might think it’s in a relaxed position. But it’s putting a lot of strain on your shoulder and your rotator cuff. A sling provides extra support for your arm, relieving stress and strain that can exacerbate rotator cuff symptoms and prolong your healing time.
PRP stands for platelet-rich plasma, a body derived from a sample of your blood. PRP contains natural healing factors that help repair tissue damage and promote optimal healing in the joint.
For severe rotator cuff injuries and major tears where conservative methods don’t provide relief and restore function, Dr. Nickson may recommend shoulder surgery to repair the rotator cuff defect. In most cases, the surgery is performed using minimally invasive techniques called joint arthroscopy. These techniques use smaller incisions for less postoperative discomfort and faster healing.
Find relief for your shoulder pain
Shoulder pain clearly indicates that your shoulder joint needs some medical attention. Delaying treatment can lead to more serious issues, including long-term or permanent disability.