There you are, winding up to throw the winning pitch to win the softball tournament, and you find yourself tripping over your own feet. You put out an arm to break the fall, but hear a snap when you land. A hurried – and painful – ride to the Emergency Room results in an orthopedic diagnosis. You have a torn rotator cuff.
No more softball for you as rotator cuff repair surgery is the recommended treatment. What does all of this mean and when can you expect to be back out on the pitcher’s mound?
What is a rotator cuff?
The rotator cuff is made up of four tendons and muscles that work as a team to stabilize and move the shoulder.
What causes a tear in the rotator cuff?
There are a number of reasons why a rotator cuff injury can occur. Typically, wear and tear – especially for patients reaching their 40s and 50s – is the most common culprit.
An over-the-head action that is repeated over and over can cause inflammation and a shoulder tear. This is common for avid swimmers, tennis players, and yes, baseball or softball pitchers. Even some tradesmen such as carpenters and painters experience damage to the shoulder’s rotator cuff.
Other causes include an improper lift or pull and a fall that is broken with the arm.
Are certain patients more likely to experience a tear than others?
Studies show that patients who repeatedly smoke or rely on steroid injections for shoulder pain are more likely to have rotator cuff difficulties. The integrity of the rotator cuff is often compromised and partial or complete tears of the tendons or muscles are likely.
Can a patient live with a torn rotator cuff?
Tendons do not heal like other parts of the body. Only orthopedic rotator cuff repair surgery will correct the shoulder condition. However, patients can live with rotator cuff tears for a limited amount of time.
Bear in mind that the rotator cuff injury will worsen, causing additional damage and certainly more shoulder pain and weakness. The rate at which this happens depends solely on the patient and the nature of the injury.
Many patients can no longer maintain a normal activity schedule. Secondary side effects include difficulty sleeping and a noticeable catch or grinding sound when shoulder movement is attempted.
Mild pain-relieving medications will temporarily help the discomfort. And while steroid injections may seem like a viable option, they will weaken the quality and quantity of the tendon.
For these reasons, orthopedic surgeons recommend rotator cuff repair surgery to be performed within 2-3 weeks of the injury for best results. Although more challenging, the rotator cuff can also be repaired after chronic injury to the tendons.
What can patients expect after a rotator cuff repair surgery?
The overall success of the procedure depends entirely on the patient’s health and motivation.
Naturally, the shoulder will be weak for several months, and the range of motion may be limited. However, an orthopedic surgeon will recommend gentle rehabilitation exercises in order to prevent scar tissue and speed up recovery.
If the recommended post-surgery steps are followed, patients will be able to jump back into their daily activities within a few months. Although the tendon will be repaired, it will never regain its original state. Patients can rest assured, though, that they will experience an improvement in shoulder mobility and comfort.
If you have a torn rotator cuff and are in need of orthopedic surgery, contact MedToGo today. We can help you get the treatment you need and the care you deserve.