Having problems with a dull, aching pain in your shoulder that’s interfering with sleep? Does it hurt when you brush or comb your hair? Read about these and other symptoms of a rotator cuff injury and how our shoulder specialist can help.

At North Point Orthopaedics in Munster and Crown Point, Indiana, our expert staff provides top-level treatment options for ACL tears, knee pain, rotator cuff damage, and other shoulder injuries.

Learn more from this experienced specialist regarding your rotator cuff and the symptoms that may indicate an injury.

Understanding the rotator cuff

Your shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint that consists of the upper arm bone (humerus), shoulder (scapula), and collar bone (clavicle).

It’s the most mobile joint in your body and relies heavily on a group of muscles and tendons known as the rotator cuff to keep the joint moving as it should. Along with providing lifting and rotational strength, the rotator cuff also holds the upper arm in place in the shoulder socket.

Even routine tasks such as brushing your hair, picking up a book, or opening a door require cooperation from the rotator cuff. Your ability to toss a ball, perform overhead activities such as changing a ceiling light fixture or lifting a heavy weight also depends on the health of your rotator cuff.

Unfortunately, the frequent use and high mobility of the rotator cuff also make it vulnerable to injury.

Rotator cuff injuries

Rotator cuff injuries are common, affecting about 2 million Americans every year, and are generally related to trauma or degenerative changes associated with aging or overuse.

Acute (sudden) injuries to the rotator cuff often occur with:

  • Falling and landing on an outstretched arm
  • Lifting a heavy weight with a jerking motion
  • An accident that leads to shoulder dislocation
  • A broken collarbone

These injuries can result in a partial tendon tear that frays or weakens the tendon or a full tear that causes the affected tendon to separate completely. Symptoms of acute rotator cuff injuries include severe pain and weakness in the affected shoulder that prevents you from lifting or using your arm normally.

But most often, rotator cuff injuries are related to slow degeneration or wearing down of the affected tendon(s) over time.

This type of injury is more common in adults over age 40 but can also affect young athletes and others involved in sports, hobbies, and work activities that cause repetitive stress to the rotator cuff.

These activities include weightlifting, tennis, baseball (especially pitchers), rowing, and overhead work such as painting or carpentry.

Shoulder symptoms related to degenerative rotator cuff injuries include:

  • Aching pain that worsens over time and typically occurs at rest
  • More severe pain when lifting and lowering your arm, such as when reaching into a cupboard
  • Discomfort when moving your arm away from your body such as when opening a door
  • Sensation of weakness when lifting or moving your arm in a circle
  • Crackling (crepitus) sensation when moving your shoulder in certain positions

The symptoms related to degenerative rotator cuff injuries typically begin in the dominant shoulder and can travel (radiate) down the arm.

Treating rotator cuff injuries

After a complete evaluation that may include diagnostic imaging studies such as an MRI, our staff designs a customized shoulder treatment strategy that may include:

  • Oral medications to reduce inflammation and pain
  • Steroid injections
  • Activity modification
  • Physical therapy
  • Regenerative medicine treatments such as PRP or stem cell therapy

Should these conservative measures fail or your injury be significant, we may recommend minimally invasive surgery to repair the damage.

For more information about rotator cuff injuries and treatment, or any of the services we offer, schedule a visit with us at North Point Orthopaedics today.

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