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Rotator Cuff Tears: Symptoms, Repair, Treatment

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  • Written By: Dr. Bond
Rotator Cuff Tears: Symptoms, Repair, Treatment

Rotator cuff tears are a common condition that affect roughly 3 million Americans every year. It’s important to be aware of the risks associated with rotator cuff tears. James Bond, MD, an orthopedic surgeon with Norman Regional’s Ortho Central clinic, answers many of the common questions people have about rotator cuffs, rotator cuff repair and rotator cuff repair recovery.

What is the rotator cuff?

“The rotator cuff is made up of four muscles, and just like the cuff of a shirt that goes around the wrist, the rotator cuff goes around the entire proximal humeral head in the shoulder. It is the component of the shoulder responsible for moving the shoulder internally, over the head as well as externally and behind the back. It pulls the ball of the ball and socket joint into the socket, so it is vitally important for keeping stability of the shoulder throughout the arm’s rotational movements.”

What are the symptoms of a rotator cuff injury?

“Typically people who are experiencing a rotator cuff injury have difficulty with overhead movements and they will feel pain when they move their arm up over their head or they have pain as they come back down. Typically, people will have night pain like throbbing or they will get woken up when they roll over because of their shoulder hurting. Often times there is also weakness in lifting their purse or moving weight away from their body and over the head. Sometimes patients will have ‘popping’ or ‘clicking’ in their shoulder.”

Who is most at risk to get a rotator cuff injury?

“Rotator cuff tears typically occur in people who are over 40 years old. People acquire bone spurs in their acromion, which is the high bone on your shoulder, and that can essentially act as a knife on the rotator cuff below.

“Bone spurs typically come from living and having trauma over your lifetime and typically over time two things happen: the first being you decrease the blood supply to certain parts of your body, the rotator cuff being one of those areas, and then it wears away. Then you also have decreased elasticity of all tendons as you age. They become more brittle and tear easier as you age.”

Types of treatment for rotator cuff tears

“If a rotator cuff is torn, it’s almost always going to have to undergo surgery. We tie the rotator cuff back down to the humeral head through small holes and it’s like building a ship in a bottle. We have the image projected up on a screen and watch our hands work. Post-surgery it should heal for about three months and then strengthen back up over the next three-to-four months for usually a six-to-eight month repair.

“If it is a partial tear, sometimes those can heal with physical therapy or injections, it just depends on how severe the injury is. Some rotator cuffs are irreparable. This happens when the tear is so large that you can’t pull it back over to where it used to be. Typically these patients will have to undergo a total shoulder replacement surgery.”

Exercises to strengthen the rotator cuffs

“If you read Tom Brady’s book (The TB12 Method) he talks about banding activities and we have found that this is the best thing to do for tendon health as you age. He is obviously someone who has had some great longevity in a brutal sport that requires a lot of overhead throwing motions. I would encourage people to read that book and perform banding activities because the more you can do it on a daily basis, the more elastic and forgiving the tendons will be as forces are placed on them during daily activities.

“The most important thing to know is that if you are having shoulder pain, you need to be seen by a sports medicine or orthopedic physician because you don’t want it to develop into an irreparable cuff tear where you can’t fix it and it has to be replaced. If you wait too long to seek treatment, that’s when real problems begin to happen, so I just recommend searching out an ethical orthopedic or sports medicine physician when you have shoulder pain.”

If you experience a rotator cuff tear or any other orthopedic injury, Dr. Bond or one of the other skilled orthopedic surgeons at Ortho Central are here to get you back to doing what you love. Call 405-360-6764 to schedule an appointment.