Signs of a Rotator Cuff Injury

The adage “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone” holds especially true for your mobility. When we walk, jump, bend, and run, we’re often not appreciative of the ability to perform these movements. But when our movement becomes limited, whether from years of wear and tear, sudden injury, or the effects of a specific health condition, we become instantly aware of what we once had.

Dr. Struan Coleman has made it his life’s work to restore his patients’ mobility through many means. He’s treated tennis, golf, and baseball pros, and knows his way around orthopedic injuries and cutting-edge surgical procedures, but he’s also a consistent partner in your care, no matter what issue you’re facing, including rotator cuff injuries. 

What is the rotator cuff?

Composed of four tendons and muscles, the rotator cuff protects your shoulder and keeps the upper rounded part of your arm bone — the humerus — stably placed in your shoulder socket. 

When a problem develops, it can be nearly impossible to do simple things like wash your hair or take off your jacket. 

Rotator cuff injuries abound

Rotator cuff tendons don’t have much room to move. If they collide with the hard knob above them (the acromion) or a ligament toward the front of your shoulder, inflammation can develop and lead to impingement syndrome, which causes the most common rotator cuff injuries, including:

Rotator cuff injuries lead to 2 million doctor’s office visits annually, and the most common ones we see are tears. These are most often due to wear and tear from overuse as a result of work, sports, aging, a fall, or just an awkward movement. 

Tendinitis develops when you play sports that require you to lift your arm over your head a lot, like tennis and baseball, but even keeping your shoulder still for lengthy periods or sleeping on it repeatedly can cause this problem. 

Bursitis affects the bursa, the sac filled with fluid that usually keeps your rotator cuff well-lubricated. 

Each of these conditions causes distinct symptoms, yet some also overlap. Become familiar with them so you and Dr. Coleman can treat it most effectively.

How do I know if I’ve injured my rotator cuff?

Interestingly, it’s not just pain or limited mobility that point to rotator cuff problems. 

With a torn rotator cuff, you usually experience a dull pain, and mobility limitations might make even scratching your back seem like a Herculean task. 

Another sign is noticeable weakness in your shoulder, so in addition to having trouble raising your arm, if you do manage to grasp something above you, a tear might make it so that you won’t have the strength to hold the weight of the object you’re reaching for. 

With tendinitis, it may be painful to both raise and lower your arm, and you might notice that the side of your arm and the front of your shoulder specifically are swollen. Stiffness can also occur, in addition to weakness and limited movement. 

Finally, shoulder bursitis causes pain on the outer or upper portion of your shoulder and makes it hard to lie on your shoulder in bed. You might also experience more severe pain when lifting your arm to the side or if you try to make a circle with it. Tenderness when you press on the top of your shoulder is another sign of injury. 

Unfortunately, these problems can cause pain that can wake you from a peaceful sleep, too. 

What are my treatment options if I’ve injured my rotator cuff?

Dr. Coleman and our able and caring team offer safe, effective treatments for your rotator cuff injury, no matter how severe it is or how long you've had pain and movement limitations. 

Dr. Coleman offers solutions for rotator cuff injuries if other treatments are unsuccessful. He’s highly skilled at performing a minimally invasive surgical rotator cuff repair procedure. Minimally invasive surgery offers these benefits over traditional surgery:

The very successful arthroscopy procedure allows Dr. Coleman to remove troubling tendon and bursa pieces, and excess bone. He can also repair rotator cuff tears. Even better, this is an outpatient procedure, and Dr. Coleman gives you complete post-surgery instructions on aftercare and the recovery process. 

If shoulder degeneration has caused you to need shoulder replacement, where Dr. Coleman exchanges badly damaged shoulder components with sophisticated substitutes made from plastic and metal, he can do that, too.

If damage to your rotator cuff has made movement so difficult that it’s affecting your quality of life, call the office most convenient to you to schedule a consultation, or connect with us through our website

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