Are Rotator Cuff Injuries Permanent?

Thursday, January 14th, 2021

The rotator cuff is a system of four muscles with tendons that connect the upper arm bone to the ball joint of the shoulder. When the tendons are damaged, it is known as a rotator cuff injury. If your shoulder hurts, you probably think you slept wrong or just need to stretch more. But, you could have a rotator cuff injury that will debilitate the longer you leave it unhealed.

This leads to the question, “are rotator cuff injuries permanent?” It is possible that you could have this injury for the rest of your life. In order to stop that from happening, it is important to understand how the rotator cuff works, how it can become injured, and how to treat it.

What causes rotator cuff injuries?

Most people think that rotator cuff injuries only happen to athletes, but they can actually happen to anyone. This shoulder joint is a very complex joint, and the rotator cuff is critical to help it function normally and pain-free. Common causes of injury include sudden trauma, overuse, and aging.

Pain can be both acute or chronic, depending upon the type of injury. For example, if you suddenly injure your shoulder, the pain will be acute. If you have a job that requires heavy, constant lifting, the pain would likely be chronic.

What happens if I have this injury but don’t treat it?

It isn’t good to ignore pain, no matter where you are feeling it. But, because shoulder pain can be caused by so many things, you might be tempted to forget about it. Rotator cuff injuries tend to linger and can even get worse over time. Tears in the rotator cuff can actually get bigger if they are neglected. This means you will have increased pain and decreased strength.

When should I seek treatment?

If you are having chronic shoulder pain, or if you have a shoulder injury, an orthopedic surgeon can help figure out what’s wrong and how to treat it. If you are experiencing loss of strength or range of motion, it is time to see a doctor. Early diagnosis and treatment is the key to preventing long-term damage.

Treatments for rotator cuff injuries

There are both surgical and non-surgical options for the treatment of shoulder problems and rotator cuff injuries. You won’t know which treatment is best for your unique situation until you have had testing. Here are some treatments, both surgical and non-surgical, that may be recommended for your rotator cuff injury.

Surgical options

If you have chronic, debilitating pain or weakness, or if you have a full-thickness tear in your rotator cuff, surgery will probably be your best option. This is especially true if other treatment methods have not helped you show improvement. Athletes and those who need use of their shoulders quickly for their profession often consider surgery earlier.

If you need surgery, the type you receive will depend on your injury. Débridement helps with partial tears, for example. The three types of procedures used for rotator cuff injuries are traditional open repair, mini-open repair, and arthroscopic repair. Arthroscopy is a great choice because it is minimally invasive and is often a day surgery.

Non-surgical treatments

Fortunately, many rotator cuff injuries do not always require surgery. Anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, and orthopedic injections can be used as treatments for this type of injury. No matter which route you and your orthopedic surgeon choose, the goal will be to reduce pain, then restore function and strength.

Physical therapy will help prevent permanent injury

Whether you are having surgery or not, your orthopedic physician will talk to you about physical therapy. For some, this treatment may be all that is needed to deal with the symptoms. For others, it will be the next step after surgery. Be sure to stick to whatever schedule your doctor and therapist set for you. Doing so will allow the muscles around the rotator cuff to regain their original strength.

Rotator cuff injury treatment in Amarillo, Texas

If you think you may have a shoulder injury, contact Dr. Dear at Texas Panhandle Orthopedics. Our Team is ready to assist you with both non-surgical and surgical treatment options. You can reach us at (806) 502-6570 for more information or to set up an appointment.