Rotator Cuff Injury

It's easy to underestimate the importance of our shoulders. We consciously use our hands and arms to perform daily tasks, but we’re less aware of our shoulder performance. That is, until an injury makes it hard to shower, get dressed, do household chores or earn a living.

The pain and weakness might be caused by a rotator cuff injury. If so, Mercy’s orthopedic specialists can help restore your shoulder function and prevent long-term side effects. These include worsening tendon tears and frozen shoulder.

What is a Rotator Cuff?

Your rotator cuff consists of four tendons and muscles that hold your upper arm bone inside the socket of your shoulder joint. The tendons help support and stabilize your shoulder. And the adjoining muscles allow you to rotate your shoulder and lift your arm.

If your rotator cuff becomes injured or inflamed, you may have shoulder pain and arm weakness. Your symptoms may make it hard to lift your arm or reach behind your back. And your pain may continue at rest, making it hard to sleep.

Types of Rotator Cuff Injuries

Many rotator cuff injuries are due to overuse. If you frequently perform overhead arm movements – such as painting or throwing a fastball – your rotator cuff can wear down.

Other rotator cuff injuries are caused by traumatic injuries (such as a fall). They may also be age-related. Our rotator cuff tendons are more vulnerable to injury after years of wear-and-tear.

Mercy’s orthopedic specialists care for rotator cuff disorders, including:

  • Rotator cuff tears refer to a partial or complete tear in one or more of the tendons.
  • Rotator cuff impingement (shoulder impingement) occurs when the tendons become trapped between two of the bones in your shoulder joint.
  • Rotator cuff tendonitis is caused by inflamed tendons.

Treatment for Rotator Cuff Injuries at Mercy

If your symptoms interfere with your ability to work or take care of yourself, talk to your Mercy physician about your treatment options. Depending on the type and severity of your injury, your care plan may include:

  • Rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE).
  • Medication to reduce pain and swelling.
  • Steroid shots (cortisone injections) to reduce inflammation.
  • A sling to help immobilize your shoulder until it heals.
  • Orthopedic rehabilitation to strengthen your shoulder muscles and improve range of motion.
  • Shoulder replacement surgery.
  • Other surgical treatment options, including arthroscopic surgery. You may need surgery if you have significant weakness and loss of function, or if your tendons need to be reattached to your upper arm bone.

Rotator cuff injuries can be serious, but they can also be overcome. With prompt diagnosis and treatment, you can put a stop to your shoulder pain – so it no longer stops you from enjoying life.


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