Rotator Cuff Surgery
Rotator cuff injuries are among the most common types of shoulder injuries, and each year, about 2 million people seek treatment for injuries to this strong network of muscles and tendons that surround and support the joint. A healthy rotator cuff helps ensure your shoulder moves the way it’s supposed to, and it also helps keep the joint stable when you raise your arms and lift heavy objects.
What causes rotator cuff injuries?
Most often, the rotator cuff is injured as a result of a fall, especially a fall on your fully-extended arm. These injuries can cause the tendons to become torn or ripped away from the humerus (the upper arm bone). Sometimes, the tendons become torn after years of wear and tear on the shoulder joint. These tears usually are precipitated by tiny tears or “fraying” in the tendons that cause the cuff to weaken and become more prone to serious injury. Once the tendons become weak, a tear can be caused by lots of activities, including lifting a heavy object, twisting your shoulder or throwing a ball. Bone spurs – bony growths along the edge of a bone – can also wear away areas of the tendon, making them more susceptible to tears, and repetitive activities can also take a toll. Rotator cuff tears can be partial or they can extend all the way from one side of a tendon to the other.
What kinds of symptoms do these injuries cause?
If you have a rotator cuff injury, you’ll probably have symptoms like:
- pain when raising or lowering your arm
- weakness when rotating your arm or lifting it
- pain when resting on your arm
- crepitus, a “creaking” or “catching” sensation when you move your arm and shoulder (Crepitus occurs when your tendon rubs against its protective sheath.)
If your injury occurs following a fall or other traumatic accident, you’ll probably experience severe pain in your shoulder right after the event.
What happens during rotator cuff surgery?
Unless a tear is very, very tiny, your tendon won’t heal on its own. Rotator cuff surgery uses special techniques to repair a damaged rotator cuff so you can use your shoulder normally again, and without painful symptoms. Before surgery, you’ll have diagnostic imaging studies to determine the extent of the tear and to evaluate the surrounding tissues and the joint itself. These images will play a valuable role in planning your surgery.
Most rotator cuff repairs can be made using a minimally-invasive technique that relies on very small incisions near your shoulder. This technique uses a special instrument called an arthroscope, which contains a tiny camera that takes real-time video of your shoulder and sends the images back to a monitor. You surgeon performs the surgery using the video to guide the other instruments. Arthroscopic shoulder repair is associated with less tissue damage, less postop pain and faster recovery compared to traditional “open” techniques that use larger incisions, but sometimes, the open approach is preferred, especially for complex injuries requiring tendon grafts.
Learn more about rotator cuff repair.
Without proper treatment, shoulder pain and related symptoms can become much worse, leaving you with a permanent disability that can take a toll on your quality of life. To find out what’s causing your shoulder pain and how it can be treated, call Franklin Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine at (615) 771-1116 and schedule an office visit today.