The shoulder joint is surrounded by a group of muscles and tendons called the rotator cuff. In addition to allowing you to move your arm and shoulder, these muscles and tendons hold the humerus (upper arm bone) in place within the shoulder socket.
Rotator Cuff Tears
Rotator cuff injuries may be caused by wear and tear on these tendons over time, especially in people whose jobs or sports activities involve a lot of overhead movement. In these cases, a person will often feel a persistent dull ache, which gets worse when sleeping on the affected shoulder. Arm strength may weaken, and range of motion is often affected.
Below is a list of common symptoms you may experience with a rotator cuff tear.
- A sensation of weakness when you lift or rotate your arm.
- Pain when you lift or lower your arm or with specific movement.
- Pain while you are resting or sleeping, particularly if you are lying on the injured shoulder.
- A crackling or grating sound (called crepitus) caused by joints rubbing together when you move your shoulder into certain positions.
Like many health concerns, the incidence of injury increases with age. Rotator cuff tears occur most often in people over 40. Genetics may also play a role.
A rotator cuff tear can occur suddenly, as the result of a traumatic injury. These cases require immediate medical attention to assess if surgery is warranted.
It is very important to get a medical assessment for shoulder pain because, left untreated, rotator cuff problems may cause weakness or loss of motion, both of which can be permanent. Additionally, while resting the shoulder is necessary for healing, keeping it still for too long can lead to frozen shoulder, a condition caused by the joint’s connective tissue becoming thickened and tight.
Recovery from a rotator cuff tear may require surgery, but in some cases, physical therapy exercises alone are successful. A qualified physical therapist can provide exercises to strengthen the muscles in the front and back of the shoulder and maximize flexibility. These exercises, as well as daily shoulder stretches, can also help prevent further injury.
For severe injuries and conditions that cause chronic pain and limited mobility, an orthopedic surgeon may recommend shoulder replacement. Patients with a torn rotator cuff, broken shoulder bone, severe arthritis or any condition that causes bone or joint deterioration may be candidates for one of the two types of shoulder replacement surgeries.
Total Shoulder Replacement
Anatomical total shoulder replacement is the most common procedure, often used for patients with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis in the shoulder. The top of the humerus is removed and replaced with a metal stem that has a ball on the end, which fits into the shoulder socket. A plastic lining in the socket makes movement smoother.
Reverse Shoulder Replacement
When tendons are damaged beyond repair, the surgeon may recommend a reverse shoulder replacement. The procedure is so named because the normal ball-and-socket structure is reversed. Instead of the ball being attached to the stem that runs down the arm, the ball is attached to the shoulder blade. The metal stem down the arm is fitted with an artificial socket.
The skilled and experienced physicians of EmergeOrtho are board certified and fellowship trained in a range of orthopedic specialties, including shoulder and joint replacement.
If you are experiencing shoulder pain and/or limited mobility, call for an appointment at 910-332-3800 to have your condition evaluated by a fellowship-trained shoulder specialist who can determine which course of treatment is best for you.