Irving, Texas Rotator Surgeon - Dr. Kevin Kruse

Irving, Texas Rotator Surgeon

My Shoulder Hurts. Do I Need Rotator Cuff Repair?

Rotator cuff injuries are very common. They can lead to shoulder pain and difficulty in moving the upper arm. When left untreated, rotator cuff injuries can lead to permanent weakness and loss of motion of the shoulder. The Irving rotator cuff surgeon of choice is Dr. Kevin Kruse, board-certified to perform orthopaedic surgery who specializes in treating problems of the shoulder. His practice is viewed as the premier Irving rotator cuff shoulder surgery repair center.

What is a Rotator Cuff?

The rotator cuff is formed from four muscles attached to your shoulder blade (one on the front, three on the back) that all converge to form a common rotator cuff tendon that is attached to the top of your shoulder joint. When you decide to lift your arm, these four muscles all contract simultaneously and act like a suction cup to anchor the humerus in the shoulder joint as other muscles, such as the deltoid muscle, take over and complete the arm movement.

What is a Rotator Cuff Tear?

The term “rotator cuff tear” refers to any injury that damages the rotator cuff tendon sufficiently to impair its function. Rotator cuff tears can occur suddenly during a single event or they can occur as a result of multiple, minor injuries occurring over time (wear and tear).

A damaged rotator cuff cannot properly stabilize the shoulder joint, meaning the shoulder joint becomes “loose” during movements. This can lead to damage to other structures in the shoulder, such as labrum tears and arthritis of the shoulder joint, especially with repeated use.

What are the Symptoms of a Rotator Cuff Tear?

The primary symptoms of an acute rotator cuff tear include the sudden simultaneous onset of shoulder pain, arm weakness, and difficulty moving the arm. A wear-and-tear type rotator cuff tear may exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Dull, aching pain in the shoulder that worsens at night

  • Shoulder pain during certain activities

  • Difficulty raising your arm over your head

  • Difficulty reaching behind your back

  • Shoulder weakness

  • Cracking and/or grating noises while moving your arm

What Activities are Risky for the Rotator Cuff?

Repetitive overhead arm motions are the major cause of wear-and-tear rotator cuff injuries. People who work in jobs that require a lot of overhead reaching, such as house painters and gutter cleaners, are at higher risk of developing rotator cuff problems.

Certain sporting activities can also place the rotator cuff at risk:

  • Lifting heavy weights over your head

  • Playing sports, including:

    • Overhead tennis serves

    • Throwing a baseball overhand

    • Water skiing

    • Paddling a kayak

    • Gymnastic moves that put pressure on lifted arms

How is a Rotator Cuff Tear Diagnosed?

Because other shoulder injuries and conditions can cause symptoms similar to that of a rotator cuff tear, diagnosis requires multiple steps. The healthcare provider will examine your shoulder and observe how it moves and what, where, and when pain occurs. The provider will test the strength of the various muscles around the shoulder.

Imaging tests such as ultrasound, x-rays, and MRI are vital aspects of diagnosing problems of the shoulder joint.

How is a Rotator Cuff Tear Treated?

If the damage to the rotator cuff is only minor, physical therapy to strengthen the other structures in the shoulder and can restore the shoulder to near-normal function. However, the only way to actually treat a rotator cuff tear is to perform rotator cuff surgery repair.

The most common type of repair is called arthroscopic tendon repair. In this procedure, a tiny camera and surgical instruments are inserted into the joint through minute incisions and used to repair the torn tendon. In some cases, the surgeon may need to open the joint to repair the tendon. If the tendon is too badly damaged to be reattached, a tendon graft can be used to replace the damaged tendon. The donor tendon is harvested from a different part of your body to avoid any issues with rejection or infection.

In cases of severe rotator cuff tendon failure or cases that have been left untreated and have developed into severe shoulder arthritis, the entire shoulder joint can be replaced.

How Long Does it Take to Recover From Rotator Cuff Repair?

It takes four to six months to fully recover from arthroscopic rotator cuff repair. You will need to avoid using the arm for about eight weeks after the shoulder surgery, followed by physical therapy for several weeks to months. Most patients can return to their usual activities by twelve weeks, but you cannot return to strenuous activities and sports until full healing is completed at around six months.

If you are experiencing problems with your shoulder, you will need to consult a shoulder surgeon. Your Irving, Texas rotator cuff repair specialist is Dr. Kruse. Contact him about an appointment today.

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