What does a rotator cuff tear feel like?

Rotator cuff tears are painful and usually cause a dull ache in the shoulder which worsens with activity and use. The symptoms will vary, depending on how much damage has occurred and if one or several of the tendons have been injured. Patients should seek a second opinion if they experience pain when sleeping on the affected side; weakness in the arm; and difficulty with daily activities such as dressing or reaching behind your back. Our orthopedic shoulder experts are the “Best in Class” and have years of experience when diagnosing rotator cuff injuries. It is important to obtain a second opinion before undergoing any kind of shoulder repair surgery so you can plan for the best possible outcome.

What is a rotator cuff tear?

The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that work together in the shoulder to keep the head of the humerus (upper arm bone) within the glenoid (shoulder socket). The rotator cuff allows a large range of motion for the shoulder, giving it strength while rotating, turning, and lifting. If one or more of these muscle-tendons becomes damaged, or if the tendon tears off of the bone, it is called a rotator cuff tear.

Does my injured rotator cuff need surgery?

Not all rotator cuff injuries require surgery. In fact, many incomplete tears can heal on their own with ice, rest, activity modification, NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), and physical therapy.

Different shoulder injuries can have similar symptoms. Rotator cuff tears have similar symptoms with another shoulder injury called a SLAP tear. SLAP tears occur when the cartilage surrounding the shoulder socket tears or becomes damaged. Shoulder bursitis, also called subacromial bursitis can also cause similar symptoms as a rotator cuff injury. The shoulder is a complicated joint and it is important to receive the proper diagnosis and treatment plan. Seeking a second opinion from our experts can save time, energy and money. At BICMD we have the country’s best orthopedic experts who were at the top of their class and can give patients an expert opinion on a number of shoulder conditions.

How is a Rotator Cuff Repair done?

Patients who have failed to experience relief from conservative measures, or for those who have received our expert evaluation and require a rotator cuff repair, typically have this surgery performed arthroscopically. Arthroscopic rotator cuff repair uses a specialized camera, called an arthroscope, and small, specialized instruments, inserted into the shoulder through small incisions. The repair is done within the shoulder joint and is also called minimally invasive rotator cuff repair. The procedure involves reattaching the tendon to the head of the humerus. Different types of tears are handled differently and can include:

  • Debridement – Done with a partial tear, where the tissue is trimmed and smoothed.
  • Biceps Tenodesis – Can be done in conjunction with a rotator cuff repair. The goal is to find the torn biceps tendon and reattach it to the humerus, allowing it to regain its strength and function.
  • Rotator Cuff Repair – The goal is to sew the torn tendon back to the bone where it was originally detached. Strong sutures are sewn through the tendon and surgical anchors, attached to the bone, secure the tendon. It is important for the damaged tendon to be sewn back in its original anatomic position.
    • Double Row Rotator Cuff Repair – The term “double row” refers to the method the surgeon uses to secure the rotator cuff to the bone. Double row fixation is done with a double row of sutures. Double row rotator cuff repair takes more time, but studies have shown the technique results in significantly less re-tear rates. The repaired tendon also has increased load ability, avoiding repair failure.

What are the risks or complications of a rotator cuff repair?

A torn rotator cuff that goes unrepaired can have long-range problems leading to permanent loss of motion, shoulder weakness and progressive degeneration of the shoulder joint. A mis-diagnosis can also cause complications if other shoulder structures are involved. It is important to receive the best-possible diagnosis for your specific shoulder condition. Our experts at BICMD have years of experience in diagnosing and treating shoulder injuries, including rotator cuff tears. They can offer the best treatment plan for your shoulder injury.

How long is the recovery after a rotator cuff repair?

The recovery time following arthroscopic rotator cuff repair can vary depending on the patient’s health, age and type of rotator cuff tear. Active, healthy individuals can expect a full recovery in about 6 months which includes:

  • Shoulder immobilization immediately following surgery.
  • Passive range of motion (PROM) exercises for 3 to 6 weeks.
  • Active range of motion exercises from week 6 to about week 8.
  • Physical therapy from week 8 to 12 weeks, depending on the patient’s progress and size of repair.
  • Patients experience increased strength and range of motion, with full recovery in about 6 months.

For more information on arthroscopic rotator cuff repair, or to have your shoulder pain evaluated and receive a second opinion, please click on “Connect With a Doctor” to reach one of our orthopedic telemedicine experts.