According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, close to 2 million people seek treatment for rotator cuff injuries each year in the U.S. In fact, they are some of the most common causes of pain and discomfort for adults.
“My practice consists 100 percent of the treatment of shoulder disorders, and I see a lot of rotator cuff injuries,” says Dr. Benjamin DuBois, an orthopedic surgeon with Sharp Grossmont Hospital. “Patients usually come to me complaining of constant shoulder pain, the inability to perform daily living activities and disrupted sleep.”
Based on his experience with rotator cuff injuries, Dr. DuBois shares his top five facts you should know about the rotator cuff, related injuries and treatment options.
- Your shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint. One of the functions of the rotator cuff is to help keep the ball centered in the socket. The rotator cuff consists of four muscles that come together as tendons to attach your upper arm bone to your shoulder blade, allowing you to lift and rotate your arm. When the rotator cuff tendons are injured or damaged, your entire shoulder can become inflamed and movement is painful.
- Although many assume rotator cuff injuries are limited to professional athletes, such as pitchers and tennis players, the vast majority of sufferers are those ages 50 and over. These individuals are active and like to stay in shape, and have had injuries over time that degenerate the rotator cuff. Or they simply slip and fall and suffer a traumatic tear.
- Small rotator cuff injuries can be treated through rest, physical therapy and anti-inflammatory painkillers and cortisone, if recommended by your doctor. However, surgery is warranted when all other treatments have failed to offer relief.
- Rates of recovery vary according to the seriousness of the injury and treatment. You can resume activities when you no longer feel pain, can fully lift and rotate your arm with ease, and your sleep cycle is no longer disrupted.
- Although there are no specific exercises or activities that can prevent rotator cuff injuries, it is important to maintain the strength and flexibility of your shoulder.
“Rotator cuff injuries are usually degenerative in nature,” says Dr. DuBois. “Think about how your skin ages on the outside; the same is happening on the inside as your blood supply changes. Continuous use or relatively small injuries can cause a tear. The good news is that once you have the correct diagnosis, a shoulder specialist can provide the exact treatment you need.”