By Dr. Umesh Kulkarni, Orthopaedics
The tendons and ligaments that connect the arm to the shoulder is a rotator cuff. It keeps the upper arm attached to the socket of the shoulder. It consists of four muscles and tendons that help to raise and rotate the arms.
What is a rotator cuff tear?
A rotator cuff tear is a fairly common injury. There can be two types of rotator cuff injuries. A partial tear of the rotator cuff occurs when only a segment of the tendon erodes. On the other hand, when the tendon is ripped all the way through, it is called a complete tear. The following can cause rotator cuff tear-
• A sports injury
• Activities like reaching up for an object or cleaning a window
• Using the same arm repeatedly
What are the symptoms of Rotator Cuff Tear?
• Loss of mobility of the arm
• Pain in the arm
• Difficulty lifting objects
• Popping sounds when you move your arm
Unless the symptoms of the rotator cuff are attended to, it can deteriorate into a frozen shoulder or even arthritis.
Treatment for Rotator Cuff Tear
Your doctor will put you on a course of physical therapy. Exercises will help strengthen the muscles of the arm. The physiotherapist will teach you exercises, which you can incorporate in your daily routine. You should try to not exert pressure on your arm. Your arm needs to be maintained in a comfortable position in your day to day life.
Coupled with therapy your doctor will prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs and painkillers to manage the swelling and the ache. If physiotherapy and medication do not work, you might have to undergo surgery.
Your doctor will put you on a course of physical therapy along with prescribed medications to treat the condition. However, if physiotherapy and medication do not work, you might have to undergo surgery.
A torn rotator cuff can be fixed up with any of the three types of surgery-
• Arthroscopic - During this procedure, the surgeon inserts a small camera into the shoulder joint. The camera displays pictures of the injury on a screen, thereby guiding the surgeon to perform small incisions that help repair the torn rotator cuff.
• Open surgery - Instruments pass through the muscles of the shoulder to repair the torn rotator cuff.
• Mini-open - It combines the methods of both arthroscopic and open surgery
Rotator cuff tear can certainly be treated. It is best to consult a doctor or physiotherapist before you opt for the surgery. Following the surgery, you will have to wear a sling for around 6 weeks. You may be advised to move your shoulder about a few times a day to improve blood flow to your elbow. An ice pack can help with the pain.
The speed of the recovery depends on the extent of the tear. Consult your doctor immediately before the condition impedes your daily activities.