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Rotator Cuff Tear Causes and Treatments

NY Orthopedics has been specializing in orthopedic surgery for over 40 years. Our team of highly qualified surgeons has pioneered a wide range of surgical joint procedures that help patients suffering from rotator cuff issues feel less pain and enjoy increased mobility. We have offices in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Nassau and Rockland counties, and New Jersey. Our physicians are well-renowned, serving professional sports teams like the New York Jets, New York Islanders, and athletes on the PGA tour.

What is a Torn Rotator Cuff?

Your shoulder is a ball-in-socket joint where the top ball of the upper arm bone (humerus) sits inside a shallow socket in your shoulder blade. Your rotator cuff is the group of muscles and tendons that hold your shoulder in place and allows you to lift and rotate your arm.

A torn rotator cuff occurs when any of the tendons that make up your rotator cuff are partially or completely separated from the top of the humerus. Some common injuries are supraspinatus tendon or subscapularis tendon tears, but there are other tendons that are also susceptible to tears.

What Can Cause a Rotator Cuff Tear?

Rotator cuffs tears can happen in two ways, through injury or wear. Injuries can happen by falling on an outstretched arm or quickly lifting something heavy.

Degenerative tears (wear) happen slowly over time, often in older individuals. They are more common in the dominant arm since it’s the arm that will likely see the most activity. There are some risk factors that can increase your chances of a degenerative rotator cuff tear:

Repetitive Stress:

performing the same action over and over again, like performing a lifting or throwing motion. This is very common in baseball pitchers, quarterbacks, and powerlifters.

Low Blood Supply:

As we age, we typically see lower blood supply to key areas of our body. This hinders the healing process, making it harder for tendons to recover from damage.


What are Common Rotator Cuff Tear Symptoms?

Symptoms may be different depending on the severity of the tear. They include:

  • A dull ache or burning pain in the shoulder
  • Experiencing shoulder pain when sleeping at night. Especially if you’ve been lying on the shoulder
  • Pain lifting your shoulder or lifting objects
  • Popping sounds in your shoulder, especially when lifting it in certain positions


What are the Treatments for Rotator Cuff Tears?

In an overwhelming number of cases, surgery is not required to treat a torn rotator cuff. However, more serious injuries may require surgery to correct.

Non-Surgical Treatments

If your doctor does diagnose you with a rotator cuff tear, know that there is a good chance it can be treated by non-surgical means. Some non-surgical treatments include:

  • Rest
  • Pain medication like Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or aspirin
  • Physical therapy designed for rotator cuff tears or other exercises designed to strengthen the shoulder
  • Steroid injections such as cortisone shots
  • Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) injections


Surgical Treatments

In rare and more extreme cases, your doctor may want to perform surgery to treat your injury. Your surgeon may perform arthroscopic surgery, where they will make a small incision in the shoulder to insert an arthroscope. This allows the surgeon to repair the tendons in the shoulder without having to make a large incision.

In other cases, open surgery may be required if the surgeon requires more room to repair the tendon.

Depending on the extent of the surgery, you may be placed under general anesthesia, where you will be asleep for the procedure, or regional anesthesia, where you will remain awake but will have no feeling in your shoulder.

Recovery time and expectations

While it takes around six to eight weeks for a rotator cuff tendon to heal, it will take slightly longer for you to regain full mobility. Small tears may take up to four months to fully regain mobility. Larger tears can take up to six months.


How to Prepare for Torn Rotator Cuff Surgery

  • As with any surgery, there are ways to prepare that can alleviate any stress you may feel after the procedure. These include:
  • You will likely have to fast about eight hours before the surgery
  • Since you will be given a sedative, you should have a person drive you home
  • Talk to your doctor if you have a history of blood disorders or if you are taking an anticoagulant (blood thinning medication)
  • Informing your doctor if you are pregnant or believe you may be pregnant
  • Check with the clinic staff to prepare any care plans to take home with you after the surgery


Common Risks of a Torn Rotator Cuff Surgery

Rotator cuff surgery complications are extremely rare. However, some potential risks include the following:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Blood clots
  • Nerve damage


Benefits of Rotator Cuff Tear Surgery

In rare cases where non-surgical treatments are impossible, a torn rotator cuff surgery can eliminate the pain associated with a tear and improve mobility overall. A qualified surgeon can perform an arthroscopic surgery with very little damage to tissue, resulting in faster recoveries.


NY Orthopedics Rotator Cuff Surgeons

NY Orthopedics has multiple sports medicine offices in New York City including Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island, as well as the surrounding counties including Nassau, Westchester and Rockland. To learn more about our services or make an appointment, contact us today!

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