Is Your Shoulder Pain a Rotator Cuff Injury?
The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles and tendons that keep the upper arm (humerus) attached to the top of the shoulder and allows the arm to be raised, extended and rotated. The rotator cuff muscles each play an important role in providing stability and strength to the shoulder, while offering a full range of movement.
Common rotator cuff injuries include rotator cuff tears and rotator cuff tendonitis, with causes ranging from accidents to gradual wear and tear. Due to the frequency our arms are used daily, rotator cuff injuries can detriment our quality of life and make simple tasks like carrying objects difficult or uncomfortable.
If you suspect you could be suffering from a rotator cuff injury, seek the help of a medical professional who can guide you to the most suitable course of treatment. If you were injured due to someone else’s negligence in a car accident or on the job, you may want to seek the advice of an experienced personal injury lawyer.
Symptoms of a Rotator Cuff Injury
A rotator cuff injury can easily go unnoticed, and if left untreated it can lead to complications and even deterioration of the shoulder joint.
Consult your doctor if you experience one or more of these symptoms:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Pain when laying on arm/shoulder
- Dull, aching sensation in shoulder
- Feeling of weakness
- Difficulty lifting objects as normal
- Raising or extending your arm causes discomfort
Rotator Cuff Tears
Rotator cuff tears are the most common form of injury in this area. Tears can happen when one or more of the tendons or muscles in the rotator cuff are frayed, torn, or completely pulled from the socket. Rotator cuff tears are categorized either as a partial tear or complete tear/full tear.
Rotator cuff tears can be caused by a sudden impact, like a bad fall, a car accident, or a sports injury. A tear can accompany another injury, such as a broken collarbone or dislocated shoulder. Rotator cuff tears also develop due to repetitive activity over the course of a short or long time. For example, jobs that depend heavily on the arms—such as painters, auto mechanics, or window cleaners.
Partial rotator cuff tears (sometimes referred to as rotator cuff strain) are common and occur when one or more of the muscles or tendons becomes frayed or partially torn.
Complete tears are far more severe and refer to muscles that are completely torn from one side to the other or a tendon that has been pulled completely out of the shoulder socket.
Treatments for Rotator Cuff Tears
In most minor cases of rotator cuff tears, patients effectively recover by taking physiotherapy sessions with a professional who will help build strength and increase the range of movement in the shoulder joint.
Patients suffering from a severe rotator cuff injury, such as a complete tear, may require surgery or other treatments to fix the muscle or tendon damage and maximize the chances the patient can return to having full movement and strength in the shoulder.
Rotator Cuff Tendinopathy
Tendinopathy refers to a spectrum of conditions that affect the tendons and are often caused by strenuous activity and repetitive motion. Tendon conditions such as tendonitis, tendinosis, and subacromial impingement are usually more prominent in people over the age of 40 and much younger in athletes.
Tendonitis refers to pain caused by inflammation of the tendons, often the result of gradual wear and tear or an injury. Patients can suffer from short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic) tendonitis, with the damage to the tendons causing musculoskeletal pain, which can be mistaken for symptoms of arthritis. Arthritis differs from tendonitis because it is caused by wear and inflammation of the shoulder socket and not the tendons.
Tendinosis refers to a degeneration of the collagen fibers in the tendons from gradual use. The process happens slowly and normally becomes noticeable in people aged 45 and older.
Another condition that falls under the scope of tendinopathy is a subacromial/shoulder impingement. This refers to tendons becoming mislocated, lodged, or trapped in the shoulder joint – causing increased wear and, later, a tear of the tendon.
Treatments for Tendonitis
The first recommended course of action for suspected tendonitis involves rest, ice, compression (with a sleeve or wrap), and elevation—abbreviated to “RICE.” The sooner action is taken to relieve the affected area, the greater possibility for a swift recovery to be made by the patient.
If, after several days, the pain hasn’t subsided, or you suffer from recurring tendonitis, consider visiting your doctor to allow them to investigate the cause further. Your doctor may send you to physiotherapy or prescribe anti-inflammatory medication.
How Long Does Recovery From a Rotator Cuff Injury Take?
Your recovery time depends on the nature of the rotator cuff injury, how severe the damage was and how well you follow the advice of your doctor or physical therapist. In cases of minor rotator cuff tears and mild tendonitis, recovery could take between three and 12 weeks.
Overextension or overexertion of the shoulder joint too early in the recovery process can lead to the damaged muscles or tendons being torn once more, which causes severe pain. To have the best chances of regaining a full range of movement and to be fully relieved of pain and achiness, stick to the treatment plan and consult your doctor with any questions or concerns you may have.
If your injury was due to a car or motorcycle accident or workplace incident, consider speaking with an attorney on your road to recovery. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help get you fair compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.