A rotator cuff tear is one of the most common shoulder injuries, bringing about 2 million Americans to the doctor every year. Board-certified orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist Andrew Kersten, MD, treats rotator cuff injuries at his private practice in Asheville, North Carolina. If you think you may have a rotator cuff injury, book an appointment at Dr. Kersten’s office online or by phone today.
A rotator cuff is a group of four muscles and tendons that attach your upper arm bone (humerus) to your shoulder blade. One of the most important parts of your shoulder, your rotator cuff allows you to lift your arms to catch a ball or reach your favorite coffee mug.
When one or more of the rotator cuff tendons become damaged or torn, it no longer attaches completely to the head of your humerus. Most of the time, a rotator cuff tear begins with fraying of the tendon and grow progressively worse. Over time, the rotator cuff may tear completely.
Rotator cuff tears generally result from two main causes: acute injury and degeneration.
This happens when you tear your rotator cuff suddenly, like when lifting a heavy object with a jerking motion. You may also sustain an acute tear if you fall on an outstretched arm or are in a motor vehicle accident.
Degenerative damage is the most common cause of rotator cuff tears. This happens when the tendons slowly wear down over time. Degeneration occurs naturally with age, but rotator cuff injuries are more likely to occur if you use repetitive arm motions, like weightlifting or swinging a tennis racket.
The symptoms you experience may vary depending on the type and severity of your rotator cuff tear. Acute tears that result from sudden injuries usually cause intense shoulder pain that may involve a snapping sensation and immediate weakness in the arm.
Rotator cuff tears that develop gradually also cause pain and weakness, but the symptoms may be less noticeable at first. As the damage grows worse, the pain and weakness may make it difficult to perform normal activities, like reaching overhead to pull a shirt on.
To diagnose your rotator cuff injury, Dr. Kersten reviews your symptoms and medical history and performs a physical exam. He may also take an X-ray to check for a bone spur.
Most patients experience relief from pain and symptoms with nonsurgical treatments, including:
If your symptoms persist despite treatment, or if you need to use overhead arm motions for sports or your career, Dr. Kersten may recommend surgery, like arthroscopic rotator cuff repair.
For individualized treatment of rotator cuff injuries, call the office of Andrew Kersten, MD, or book an appointment online today.