Dr. Sumit Dewanjee at FXRX Inc. in Tempe and Chandler, Arizona, is an award-winning surgeon who provides top-level orthopedic services for shoulder injuries and rotator cuff problems.
The FXRX team discusses common signs and symptoms of rotator cuff injuries, what causes them, and treatments that relieve pain and restore shoulder mobility.
What is the rotator cuff?
The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint that includes the upper arm bone (humerus), shoulder blade (scapula), and collarbone (clavicle).
As the most mobile joint in your body, the shoulder relies on a group of muscles and tendons known as the rotator cuff for movement and lifting strength.
For example, the rotator cuff makes it possible to brush your hair, shake someone’s hand, or open a door. It also allows you to toss a ball, perform overhead activities such as painting a ceiling, and stretch your arms away from the body.
Unfortunately, the rotator cuff’s mobility and frequent involvement in your daily routine also make it vulnerable to injury.
Understanding rotator cuff injuries
About 2 million Americans yearly experience rotator cuff injuries related to trauma, overuse, or age-related changes.
A sudden (acute) rotator cuff injury can occur during trauma resulting in shoulder dislocation or collarbone fracture. In addition, landing on an outstretched arm during a fall can also damage the rotator cuff.
These injuries may cause a partial tear that weakens the tendon or a complete tendon separation (full-thickness tear). Symptoms of an acute rotator cuff injury include a snapping sensation, severe pain, and weakness in the affected shoulder.
Degenerative changes that occur over time also affect the rotator cuff. While more common in people over 40, rotator cuff problems can also affect young athletes and others involved in sports, hobbies, and work activities that repeatedly stress the rotator cuff.
For example, weightlifting, tennis, baseball (especially pitchers), rowing, and routine overhead activities performed by painters and carpenters increase your risk of rotator cuff injury.
Symptoms related to degenerative or overuse rotator cuff injuries include:
- Dull or aching shoulder pain that often worsens at night
- Increasing discomfort and stiffness when lifting and lowering your arm
- Difficulty stretching your arm away from your body, i.e., when opening a door
- Inability to fully rotate your arm
- Crackling sensation with certain shoulder positions
- Inability to lift your arm above shoulder height
These symptoms can affect one or both shoulders but typically begin in the dominant shoulder and can travel down the arm.
Treating rotator cuff injuries
After a complete physical evaluation that may include diagnostic imaging studies such as an MRI, Dr. Dewanjee designs a customized treatment strategy to relieve pain, restore mobility, and prevent future rotator cuff damage.
Depending on the severity of the injury, your plan may include:
- Oral medications to reduce inflammation and pain
- Steroid injections
- Activity modification
- Physical therapy
- Regenerative medicine treatments such as platelet-rich plasma (PRP) or stem cell therapy
If conservative treatments don’t offer adequate relief, Dr. Dewanjee may recommend surgical tendon repair.
Known as one of Arizona’s top shoulder surgeons, Dr. Dewanjee specializes in sports medicine procedures and minimally invasive surgeries that offer stellar results with minimal downtime.
Schedule an evaluation at FXRX Inc. today for top-level orthopedic care that’s always patient-focused. Call the office or request an appointment online.