What is it that keeps your arm well secured and connected to the shoulder? It’s the rotator cuff – a group of ligaments (connecting muscles) and tendons (flexible strong tissues). The rotator cuff helps you to move your arm for various activities that involve raising your arm above the head or rotating your arm.
Basics about rotator cuff injury:
If you suffer a minor rotator cuff injury, you will experience a faint but constant pain or irritation in your shoulder. If you experience severe pain then, it might be a major rotator cuff injury like a ligament or tendon damage/ tear.
Causes of a rotator cuff injury:
- Normal wear and tear of the tendons and ligaments due to age.
- Going through the motion of swinging or rotating your arm, on a regular basis, as a result of sports (tennis, swimming, etc.) or rigorous exercising.
- Being physically inactive and all of a sudden straining your arm by lifting something heavy or overexerting yourself with exercise.
- If your work involves a constant movement of the shoulders etc.
- If you fall hard on your arm or shoulder.
Treatment for a rotator cuff injury:
The treatment depends upon the type and intensity of the injury. If it is a simple strain or minor injury, then your doctor might suggest the following:
- Applying ice packs and hot water bottle on the shoulder to relieve the pain and reduce the swelling.
- Oral painkillers.
- Physiotherapy or massages.
- Certain shoulder exercises.
- Resting the affected arm by avoiding strenuous activities.
- Using an arm sling.
If these measures don’t work, your doctor might suggest a surgery. A surgery is also recommended if you have a constant pain and discomfort in the shoulder for more than 6 months or if the ligament tendon tear is more than 1 inch big and if you are an athlete or into heavy labour work. Here are the major types of surgical treatments:
- Arthroscopic rotator cuff repair: This is a minimally invasive surgery. It involves the use of an arthroscope (a narrow tube with a high definition camera at its tip). The camera is inserted into the shoulder through a small cut. It gives the exact view of the damage so that the treatment can be precise. One or two other small incisions are made to insert the surgical tools for the repair. Since the cuts are small and less in number, this style of operation guarantees lesser pain, bleeding and scars and faster recovery.
- Regular or open surgery: This is often used for complicated repairs. Since the shoulder area will be cut wide open for the repair, the recovery time is comparatively longer.
With a surgery, the doctors re-attach torn muscles and tendon with the help of sutures and reconnect them to the bones with help of surgical anchors.
The aftercare for rotator cuff repair surgery:
- Use a shoulder sling or immobilizer for about 30 to 40 days to prevent the shoulder from experiencing any jerky movements.
- Avoid driving for at least 4 weeks.
- Might have to take doctor prescribed painkillers, occasionally for a few weeks.
- To avoid stiffness and to slowly get the shoulder back to motion, physiotherapy and certain exercises will also be suggested. Make sure to perform these exercises with the utmost care and vigilance.
Following these measures meticulously can help you recover in about 4 to 6 months.
For the best repair don’t forget to consult an expert. Get in touch with some of India’s renowned orthopaedic surgeons or joint specialists at Apollo Spectra