Rotator Cuff Injuries

What is the Rotator Cuff?

The rotator cuff is made of tendons and muscles. The tendons include subscapularis, supraspinatus, teres minor, and infraspinatus. They extend from the scapula to the humerus and surround the shoulder joint.

How Does a Rotator Cuff Get Injured?

A rotator cuff can get injured in many ways. Throwing a baseball, traumatic injury, and swinging a golf club are some causes of rotator cuff injury. The result is the tearing of the supporting tendons. In most cases, chronic and degenerative changes can lead to the tearing of a rotator cuff. So, it can happen without a traumatic event. Rotator cuff injuries can be partial tears or a complete tear.

Surgery is required for complete tears and available in Atlanta. In such a case, a tendon may get retracted or disconnected. Postoperative recovery is about 6 to 8 months. You may need physical therapy and to wear a brace or sling. 

Common Symptoms of Rotator Cuff Injury

If you have rotator cuff injuries, you may or may not experience pain. In some cases, degenerative conditions can cause this issue. There may also be a delay in the appearance of the symptoms. To make sure you need a rotator cuff surgery, your doctor will assess your conditions. You should get in touch with your doctor if you have multiple symptoms. Here are the common symptoms:

  • Certain activities cause pain
  • Lack of range of motion in the shoulder
  • You can not sleep leaning on your affected shoulder
  • You experience tenderness and pain when reaching overhead
  • Progressive weakness

Who is at Risk?

These injuries can be degenerative and acute. One particular incident can be responsible for an acute injury. Lifting heavy objects or sudden falling can lead to acute injuries. This type of injury is more prevalent among young people.

Long-term overuse can lead to degenerative injuries. Wrestlers, rowers, baseball players, and tennis players are particularly at risk. Carpenters and painters are also at risk because their jobs involve repetitive lifting.

How is It Diagnosed?

To diagnose a rotator cuff injury, your doctor will use imaging scans, a physical exam, and your medical history. She will ask you about your physical activities. Then she examines your arm’s strength and range of motion. Next, she will  rule out arthritis, pinched nerve, or similar conditions.

Bone spurs are identified with the help of imaging scans. Small bone growth causes inflammation and pain. Your doctor can also use ultrasound scans and MRIs. Muscles, tendons, and other soft tissues are examined with these tools. They identify the severity of the tears.

Surgical Treatments

For rotator cuff injury, there are 3 surgical options available in Atlanta. Here are these options:

1. Open rotator cuff repair

This surgery involves making an open incision over the shoulder. The incision is a few centimeters long. To repair it, your surgeon will separate your shoulder muscle. This surgery is for patients with complicated and long tears. It is also recommended for those who need tendon transfers or other reconstruction procedures.

This surgical option is for severe cases. It is performed only when the tendon is too damaged to be reattached to the humerus. To repair the cuff, the latissimus dorsi tendon is used. The procedure may also require the removal of bone spurs.

2. Arthroscopic rotator cuff repair

This surgical option is for patients with small tears. This surgical procedure is relatively simple. This surgery requires making small incisions, unlike open repair. Each incision is just one centimeter long. Arthroscopic rotator cuff repair is also known for less pain, shorter recovery, and fewer complications.

3. Mini-open rotator cuff repair

This procedure involves both open surgery and arthroscopic techniques. Arthroscopy is applied to evaluate the injury, remove loose cartilage, and trim away bone spurs. The surgeon then makes an incision to get direct visual access. The procedure is not as invasive as the open repair. Unlike open repair surgery, mini-open repairs do not require detaching your shoulder muscle.

Which Surgery is the Best?

All three surgeries relieve pain and improve the strength of the rotator cuff. The surgery a person needs depends on factors such as the size of the tear, the conditions of the patient’s tissues and tendons, and the patient’s anatomy. All these surgical approaches have three things in common: creating space for the tendons, eliminating debris, and stitching torn edges.

Reducing shoulder pain is the primary goal of all these procedures, and restoring shoulder function is the secondary goal. A rotator cuff surgery in Atlanta does not require a patient to stay in the hospital.

Possible Complications

Not all people who undergo rotator cuff surgeries experience complications. Some possible complications of this surgery include infection, nerve injury, stiffness, deltoid detachment, and tendon re-tears. These risks and complications are not very common.


You will feel pain after the surgery. This is a part of the process of healing. To reduce the pain, your doctor may recommend medications. They are prescribed after surgery, for short-term pain relief. Common pain medications include local anesthetics, inflammatory drugs, and opioids.

It is important to note that opioids can relieve pain, but they are addictive. Overdosing can lead to a serious health issue. You should use an opioid only if your doctor prescribes it. Stop taking it as soon as you notice an improvement in the symptoms of your pain.

Rehabilitation plays a very important role in the recovery process. You can regain shoulder motion and strength by following a therapy program. The tendon will heal gradually and you will have to protect the repair. For the first few weeks, you may need to use a sling.

To improve your shoulder’s range of motion, you can also consider doing some passive exercises. But make sure you talk to your doctor before you engage in such exercises. Passive exercise can begin about 6 weeks after your surgery.

If the conditions get better, you can even consider engaging in active exercises. Active exercises do not require the help of a therapist. In a few months, you can expect a complete recovery. A successful outcome depends on how committed you are to rehabilitation.


You can undergo a rotator cuff surgery if you need to, but prevention is always better than cure. If you are a bit careful, you can prevent this problem, at least to some extent. Athletes can prevent rotator cuff injuries by frequently taking rest breaks. The key is to reduce the load on the shoulder. Exercises that encourage a range of motion can be helpful. Your physical therapist may recommend strengthening exercise and stretches. Swelling can be reduced by icing the affected area.

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