Shoulder discomfort is not an uncommon concern. Many individuals face this issue, and persistent shoulder pain can be a sign of an injury to your rotator cuff.
At OasisMD Lifestyle Healthcare with offices in Encinitas, San Diego, and Temecula, California, our board-certified orthopedic providers are well-acquainted with shoulder issues, and we have the expertise to effectively address them.
If you’re worried about your rotator cuff, keep reading as we explore the function of this body part and the ways it heals after injury.
About your rotator cuff
The human shoulder is an engineering marvel, designed for a broad range of motions and tasks. Central to its functionality is the rotator cuff—a complex mix of muscles and tendons, which wrap around the top of your upper arm bone, anchoring it securely to your shoulder blade's shallow socket.
This complex setup not only stabilizes your shoulder joint but also makes it possible for you to perform a wide array of movements, from simple daily tasks like reaching for an object on a high shelf to more strenuous activities like throwing a baseball.
Injuries, unfortunately, are a part of life, and the rotator cuff isn't immune. A torn rotator cuff can arise from an acute injury—perhaps a fall during sports or lifting a weight improperly. It might also be the result of degenerative changes over the years, which develop from repetitive stress or the natural aging process.
Symptoms of a torn rotator cuff can vary, but often include:
- Persistent, often debilitating pain, especially during nighttime
- Pronounced weakness when attempting to lift or rotate your arm
- A crackling or grating sensation when moving your shoulder
Rotator cuff tears also cause pain when you lift or lower your arm or try to use it in certain ways.
How rotator cuff injuries heal
One of the most common questions our providers answer when talking to patients about rotator cuff tears is whether or not the injury will heal on its own. The answer? It depends.
The body has a remarkable capacity for self-healing, but it's conditional. Mild rotator cuff strains, characterized by minor tears, may heal with adequate rest, ice application, and use of over-the-counter pain medications.
However, substantial tears—where the tendon is fully ruptured—generally require medical intervention. Our providers at OasisMD Lifestyle Healthcare understand these complex injuries and can provide the right medical interventions for your needs.
It’s important to seek help sooner rather than later, since untreated or poorly managed rotator cuff injuries can lead to irreversible arm weakness or even progressive degeneration of your shoulder joint, which can negatively affect your quality of life.
How our team can help
If you suspect you could have a rotator cuff injury, seeking consultation from a seasoned provider is important. At OasisMD Lifestyle Healthcare, our approach to treatment is holistic, beginning with a comprehensive assessment to determine the severity of the injury.
Based on your needs, our providers create a personalized rotator cuff treatment plan. Conservative treatments are typically the first approach and may involve:
- Rest and activity modifications: Periods of rest, interspersed with guided activity, can foster natural healing.
- Physical therapy: Targeted exercises help strengthen shoulder muscles, improving joint stability and range of motion.
- Medications: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and analgesics help minimize pain and inflammation.
When conservative measures aren’t enough, advanced interventions may be necessary. These therapies include treatments like:
- Steroid injections: These treatments help reduce pain and inflammation, providing relief, especially in chronic cases.
- Surgery: For substantial tears or when other interventions prove ineffective, surgical repair can be the best course of action.
Schedule an appointment online, or call the OasisMD Lifestyle Healthcare location nearest you for more information on rotator cuff injuries and how we can help your shoulder heal.