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Rotator Cuff Injuries

The rotator cuff consists of four small muscles: the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis and teres minor. The function of the rotator cuff muscles is to lift and rotate the shoulder joint. Most tears are of the supraspinatus muscle, however other muscles may also be involved.

Rotator Cuff Injury Causes
The rotator cuff can be torn acutely through a traumatic injury or repetitive activities. Most tears result from overuse of the muscles and tendons over a period of time. Athletes are more susceptible to rotator cuff tears, particularly in sports such as baseball, softball, tennis, weightlifting and rowing. Rotator cuff injuries are also more commonly among patients over the age of 40.

Symptoms of Rotator Cuff Tears
Symptoms of a rotator cuff tear include thinning of the shoulder muscles, pain with lifting the arm, pain when lowering the arm from an elevated position, weakness when lifting or rotating the arm, or a cracking sensation when moving the shoulder.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Rotator Cuff Injuries
X-rays and MRIs are necessary for confirmation of diagnosis. Surgical and non-surgical options are available. For the best treatment options, consult the Sports Medicine Program at Gwinnett Medical Center–Duluth.

Non-surgical Treatment of Rotator Cuff Injury
Rest, limiting overhead activity, using a sling, anti-inflammatory medication, steroid injection, strengthening exercises and physical therapy are non-surgical methods of treatment.

Surgical Treatment of Rotator Cuff Injury
Specifications of the surgery depend on the size, shape and location of the tear. A debridement may be sufficient for a partial tear, while a complete tear will require greater repair.

Types of repair include:

  • Arthroscopic—Is the least invasive type of repair. A small camera is inserted and surgical tools are used to perform minor repairs.
  • Mini-open—Requires a small incision to repair a tear.
  • Open—A traditional method for repairing a complete rotator cuff tear, which involves making an incision and detaching the deltoid muscle to better access the tear in the rotator cuff.

Rehabilitation for Rotator Cuff Tears
After surgery, the patient’s arm will be immobilized to allow for healing. Physical therapy will begin after initial healing has taken place and will work to increase range of motion and strength. Complete recovery for rotator cuff tears can take several months.

For a free physician referral to one of Atlanta’s top sports medicine doctors, please call 678-312-5000.