Diagnosing a rotator cuff tear involves a physical examination by your doctor during which muscle strength and range of motion will be evaluated. History of the injury and progression of pain will be noted, as well as tenderness and any deformity that may be present. Your doctor may recommend diagnostic testing to confirm a rotator cuff injury and rule out other conditions such as osteoarthritis or pinched nerve.
Imaging tests may include:
- X-rays: To determine if bone spurs are present or if the humeral head is encroaching into the rotator cuff space
- MRI or ultrasound: To give detailed pictures of the soft tissues of the shoulder in order to determine where the tear is located, its size, and how long it has been there (based on muscle quality)
The goal of any rotator cuff treatment is to reduce pain and restore functionality.
Conservative treatment for rotator cuff tears includes:
- Physical therapy: To strengthen the shoulder muscles, increase range of motion, and improve flexibility
- Anti-inflammatory medicines: To alleviate pain and swelling
- Cortisone injections: Effective at reducing inflammation
- Activity modification: To learn more comfortable ways to move the affected shoulder
- Rest: Limiting the activities that aggravate the condition
- Immobilization: Utilizing a sling to keep the shoulder still and allow the tear time to heal
Your orthopedic specialist may recommend surgical treatment if:
- Conservative, non-surgical treatments are not effective
- Pain and/or weakness continue for 6-12 months
- The tear is the result of an acute injury
- Loss of functionality is significant
- The tear is large (over 3 cm)
Rotator cuff surgery is performed by the orthopedic surgeons at OSMI Ft. Worth to repair torn tendons and reattach them to the humerus bone. Partial tears may only require debridement, a trimming and smoothing procedure.
Surgical options for repairing rotator cuff tears include:
Traditional open repair: An incision is made over the shoulder to visualize the tear and gain access to the area. Open repair is typically used if a tear is large or complex.
Arthroscopic repair: Arthroscopic shoulder surgery is a less invasive surgical procedure usually performed on an outpatient basis and involving very small incisions, minimal discomfort, and shorter recovery time.
Mini-open repair: Both arthroscopic and open surgical techniques are used.
Recovering from Rotator Cuff Surgery
Complete recovery from rotator cuff surgery can take several months. Rehabilitation through physical therapy is crucial to a successful and timely recovery. Postoperative care will likely involve wearing a sling to immobilize the shoulder for a period of time and then strengthening and flexibility exercises.
Length of recovery will depend on:
- The type of surgery performed
- Size of the tear repaired
- Length of time the tear has gone unrepaired
The sooner a rotator cuff tear is repaired, the easier the recovery period will be. If you are experiencing symptoms of a rotator cuff tear and would like an evaluation with one of our orthopedic specialists, please contact our office for an appointment.