The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint and make it possible to lift, stretch, or rotate your arms. Because simple tasks like opening a door or brushing your hair require a healthy rotator cuff, even a partial tendon tear can make life miserable.
Worse, full recovery and healing can take months.
Sumit Dewanjee, MD, in practice at FXRX, is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon, trauma specialist, and sports medicine physician who provides Phoenix and Tempe, Arizona, with top-level orthopedic services.
Dr. Dewanjee, committed to delivering state-of-the-art care with a compassionate, patient-first attitude, answers questions about steroid injections and other treatments that help rotator cuff tears heal faster.
What is a rotator cuff tendon tear?
Tendons are fibrous cords of connective tissue that attach muscle to bone. For example, your rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that come together as tendons. The rotator cuff tendons hold the shoulder joint in place and help lift and rotate your arm by attaching the humerus (upper arm) to the shoulder blade.
Degenerative changes over time or traumatic injuries can cause the rotator cuff tendons to fray or tear. This can lead to decreased mobility and moderate to severe pain that can significantly affect your daily routine.
Rotator cuff tears may be partial, meaning the tendon has thinned significantly but is still partially attached to the bone. A complete tear occurs when a portion of the tendon completely separates from the bone.
If you delay treatment for a torn rotator cuff tendon, the tear will likely enlarge, worsening your pain and other symptoms. Unfortunately, due to a limited blood supply, tendons can take many weeks to months to heal.
How can a steroid injection help with a rotator cuff tear?
Dr. Dewanjee notes that his treatment goals for a rotator cuff tear include relieving your pain and restoring full mobility as quickly as possible. Most rotator cuff tears respond well to conservative treatments such as activity modification, physical therapy, and oral pain medications.
But inflammation and pain related to tendon tears can make participating fully in physical therapy challenging. Even getting a good night’s sleep, which is always beneficial to healing, may be difficult with a torn tendon.
A steroid injection quickly reduces inflammation and pain, especially when combined with a local anesthetic. Symptom relief can last for several weeks to months, providing time for other therapies to work. Steroid injections, provided in-office at FXRX, are quick and generally well-tolerated.
What if steroid injections don’t help?
Dr. Dewanjee may also recommend innovative therapies such as platelet-rich plasma (PRP) to help speed the healing of rotator cuff injuries. PRP is an injection-based therapy that enhances your body’s natural ability to repair and rebuild damaged tissue.
But depending on the type of tear and your level of disability, some rotator cuff injuries require surgery.
Dr. Dewanjee specializes in minimally invasive (arthroscopic) rotator cuff surgery. Because of the small incisions and decreased trauma to surrounding tissue, arthroscopic shoulder surgery offers faster healing and less postoperative pain.
Schedule an evaluation with Dr. Dewanjee at FXRX today for more information about rotator cuff injuries and the therapies we offer. Call our office or request an appointment online.