Rotator cuff injuries to the shoulder vary a great deal in severity. At Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine, we are often able to help patients with rotator cuff injuries heal by using one or more of our many nonsurgical treatment options. Our doctors are physiatrists, that is MDs with well-honed skills in pain relief and restoration of function. As such, we have experience with complimentary as well as traditional treatment methods.
Because of our comprehensive training, we can treat most of our patients without ever having to refer them to surgeons. In the few cases in which their injury is traumatic enough to require an operation, we are frequently able to make them more comfortable and more flexible both as they await surgery and during recovery.
What exactly is the rotator cuff?
The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons surrounding the shoulder joint. Its function is to keep the head of the upper arm bone (humerus) firmly within the socket of the shoulder.
Types of Rotator Cuff Injuries
There are three types of rotator cuff injuries:
- Partial tears — in which the tendon of the rotator cuff is damaged, but not completely severed
- Complete tears — in which the soft tissue of the rotator cuff is worn through or torn until it is in two pieces
- Acute tears — in which a sudden trauma, such as lifting a heavyweight without proper preparation or falling on one’s shoulder results in a tear that requires immediate medical attention
Causes of Rotator Cuff Injuries
In most cases of rotator cuff injuries treated in our offices, we are dealing with:
- Progressive deterioration due to wear and tear of the tendons
- One or more tendon tears that have resulted from a sports accident
- Tendon damage resulting from prolonged or repetitive overhead activity or heavy lifting
As with other injuries often caused by wear and tear, rotator cuff injuries are more likely to happen to older individuals who have been stressing their tendons over a long period. Not surprisingly, rotator cuff injuries are more common in people over the age of 60. There also seems to be a genetic component to the problem since some families have a history of this type of injury. Also, your occupation or recreational activities may predispose you to damage your rotator cuff. Occupations in which you are required to make repetitive arm motions, especially above your head — e.g. house painting or carpentry — may put you at increased risk.
Pain, particularly pain that worsens as you try to use your outstretched arm, is characteristic of rotator cuff injuries. Most patients describe a dull, aching sensation deep in the shoulder that often interferes with sleep. They also complain about having difficulty combing their hair or reaching behind their backs. Many are plagued by the weakness of the affected arm. It should be noted that an injury that causes sudden weakness in your arm requires urgent care.
The doctors at Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine are excellent diagnosticians who will immediately refer you if they find that you need surgery. We will find out quickly whether you are suffering from a rotator cuff injury and, if so, how severe the tendon damage is. We have a wide range of diagnostic tools beyond physical examination and careful patient questioning at our disposal, including:
- X-rays to rule out evidence of osteoarthritis or bones spurs
- Ultrasound and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to provide accurate images of soft tissues like muscles, tendons, and cartilage
- Electromyography (EMG) to reveal any nerve damage to the area or arising from the cervical spine region
Our doctors are adept at using several conservative treatments culled from traditional and complementary medicine. We recommend rest, avoidance of the activities likely to have caused the problem, as well as ice packs and over-the-counter analgesics to alleviate pain. We may also recommend one or more of the following treatment options to get you back in shape:
- Ultrasound-guided injections of corticosteroid and analgesics at the site to relieve pain
- Physical therapy focused on strengthening your shoulder and increasing range of motion
- Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy
- Pulsed electromagnetic field therapy (PEMF)
The last three treatments on the above list all work to relieve symptoms and accelerate healing.
Although surgery is rarely used to treat rotator cuff tendonitis unless the injury is extremely severe, when we do have to recommend it, we will work hard to make you more comfortable before the operation and more flexible afterward, tailoring our efforts to keep you from suffering a “frozen shoulder.”
Contact our Experienced Long Island Team of Rotator Cuff Injury Specialists Today
As soon as you contact Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine, you will realize that we are not like other doctors. We are innovative healers, dedicated to relieving your pain and improving your quality of life.