Rotator Cuff Tears

It’s not uncommon for adults to deal with a rotator cuff tear. In fact, about 2 million people deal with this type of injury every year in the United States. 

When you suffer from shoulder pain, the right treatment from Dr. John Andrachuk makes a difference. With plenty of experience treating injuries, including rotator cuff tears, Dr. Andrachuk is the right Orthopedic Sports Medicine surgeon in Atlanta for you.

What are Rotator Cuff Tears?

The rotator cuff is the muscles and tendons found around the shoulder joint. These muscles and tendons help to ensure the upper arm bone stays firmly in the shoulder socket. 

Rotator cuff tears are common as you get older. Any tear to the muscle or tendon within this group is classified as a rotator cuff tear. 

What are the Most Common Rotator Cuff Tears Types?

Rotator cuff tears are split into two different groups: Acute tears and degenerative tears.

Acute Tears

If you become injured due to a fall or lifting something heavy with a jerking motion, it’s known as an acute tear. Usually, these rotator cuff tears happen with other types of shoulder injuries, such as a dislocated shoulder or a broken collarbone.

Degenerative Tears

Rotator cuff tears are more commonly caused due to wear and usage. Over time, your rotator cuff muscles and tendons can become torn due to repetitive stress. The injury can become degenerative or chronic.

Degenerative tears can also occur due to a lack of blood supply or bone spurs.

Rotator Cuff Tears Symptoms

If you suffer from a rotator cuff tear injury, you will likely experience the following symptoms:

  • Dull aching in the shoulder
  • Arm weakness
  • Struggle sleeping
  • Difficulty reaching behind your back
  • Pain when lifting
  • Pain at night
  • Lack of range of motion

The shoulder pain may not last very long or it may come and go. 

Most Common Causes of Rotator Cuff Tears

It’s common for rotator cuff tears to happen over time due to repetitive overhead activity. Weight lifters are at risk for rotator cuff tears as well as manual laborers.

Most Common Risk Factors for Rotator Cuff Tears

The following factors may put you at a higher risk of a rotator cuff tear:

  • Your age – as you get older, this injury becomes more common
  • Genetics – Some rotator cuff tears can have a genetic component
  • Construction Jobs – Any occupation with repetitive arm motions, especially overhead, may cause rotator cuff tears over time
  • Athletic activities – Throwing a baseball and playing tennis can lead to rotator cuff injuries

Any activity causing you to reach above your head repetitively may put you at a higher risk of a rotator cuff tear.

How Rotator Cuff Tears are Diagnosed

A physical examination is common when seeing a doctor for a rotator cuff tear or any shoulder injury. Your doctor will ask about your medical history and examine your range of motion. It’s common for a doctor to example your neck, as well to ensure the pain isn’t coming from a pinched nerve.

Along with the physical exam, your doctor will likely use certain imaging tests to diagnose a rotator cuff tear. X-rays may be ordered to rule out bone spurs. However, an X-ray won’t show the soft tissue of the shoulder.

An MRI or ultrasound will likely be used to diagnose a rotator cuff tear. These imaging tests can show the soft tissue and help your doctor see any tears in your rotator cuff.

Rotator Cuff Tears Treatment

Nonsurgical treatment for rotator cuff tears is common. The more conservative treatments include:

  • Injections – A steroid injection can help to reduce the pain and help you sleep better at night. 
  • Rest – Your doctor will likely suggest you rest your shoulder and limit activity, especially overhead activity.
  • NSAIDs – Over-the-counter drugs, such as ibuprofen and naproxen can help reduce pain and swelling.
  • Physical Therapy – Rotator cuff tears can be treated with specific exercises to help restore strength and movement to the shoulder.

When non-surgical treatment options won’t help restore range of motion or relieve the pain, a surgical option might be necessary.

Types of Rotator Cuff Tears Surgery

There are several options for surgical treatment of rotator cuff tears.

Tendon Transfer

When a tendon in your shoulder has become too damaged to be reattached to the bone, it may be necessary to perform a tendon transfer surgery. This type of surgery will choose a nearby tendon to use as a replacement.

Arthroscopic Tendon Repair

A small camera called an arthroscope will be used with specific tools to reattach the torn tendon to the bone. This is a minimally invasive procedure but will require small incisions.

Open Tendon Repair

Some rotator cuff tears require an open tendon repair. This type of survey includes a larger incision allowing your surgeon to reattach the tendon to the bone.

Shoulder Replacement

If you have suffered multiple shoulder injuries or a very bad rotator cuff tear, you might need shoulder replacement surgery. An artificial joint will be used with a reverse shoulder arthroplasty to attach the scope to the arm bone and the joint to the shoulder blade.

Schedule an Appointment Today!

Dr. Andrachuk provides years of experience treating rotator cuff tears. If you’ve been dealing with shoulder pain for a prolonged amount of time, it’s time to seek medical attention. Dr. Andrachuk offers both conservative treatment options and the best minimally invasive surgical options to help ease your shoulder pain. Contact us today and schedule your in-person or telemedicine appointment!