Rotator Cuff Injuries

Specific groups of muscles and tendons stabilize the shoulders and allow movement of the arms. These muscles are known as rotator cuffs, and when they become strained, torn, or damaged, it is called rotator cuff injury. This type of injury is common among many people, with the most types reported being bursitis, tendinitis, and strains. If one or more of those muscles becomes torn, it is called rotator cuff tear. 

Causes of Rotator Cuff Injuries

Rotator cuff injuries caused by different factors resulting in different categories of injuries. Overuse of the cuffs is one cause. Overuse results are an injury known as tendinitis. Tendinitis is most common among those who play tennis, or anyone involved in activities that require repetitive movement of the arms upwards. The muscles will become swollen and painful. Another common cause is the swelling of the fluid sacs that are found between the muscles. These sacs are called bursae, and they cushion the bones, tendons, and muscles near your joints. Injury to the bursae is known as bursitis. Tearing of the tendons that join the muscles is another common cause of rotator cuff tear. This usually happens when the tendons are overused as the muscles degenerate or during a car accident or other types of accidents. 

Symptoms of a rotator cuff tear 

Rotator cuff injuries or tears don’t always have symptoms. You may have a tear but not feel any pain. However, you may also feel the pain that comes and goes or is only present when the arms move in a specific direction. Most of the time, the pain is present when the arms move upwards or when the injured arm is used for support when sleeping. The pain can be so intense that it prevents sleeping, or it can be mild. Cracking sounds when the arms move is another common symptom. Immobility and weakness of the arm are also common symptoms. Weakness may progress, starting as mild, progressing to severe.  It may make it impossible for you to reach your arms behind you. 

The parts of the body that are damaged

As the name suggests, rotator cuff injuries affect the rotator cuffs. The rotator cuffs are four muscles together with tendons that are found in the shoulders. Rotator cuff sprain or tear, therefore, damages these muscles or tendons. Pain can be felt on the shoulders, the arms, or the neck. 

Different types of rotator cuff tears (partial or full) 

Rotator cuff tears can be partial or complete. A partial tear happens when only a small part of a tendon becomes torn. If not treated immediately, the tear can extend, resulting in a full tear. Both types of tears can be excruciating and may occur in one or multiple tendons. 

Diagnosis and treatment 

Rotator cuff injury diagnosis is relatively easy, but requires a thorough history check. Self-diagnosis isn’t recommended. You should see a doctor whenever you feel pain on your shoulders or when you can’t lift something upwards because of pain. The doctor will ask questions regarding your history before further exams. The conventional methods of diagnosis are magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and X-Ray. MRI will show the tendons torn and the pattern of the tear while the X-Ray will use electromagnetic energy to show the internal structures of the injured surface. Most doctors use MRI or ultrasonography because of their precision and clarity. Ultrasonography is also less expensive and is easier to use compared to other diagnostic measures. 

Different treatment options can be used depending on the level of the injury. If the tear isn’t very extensive, then the doctor will recommend adequate rest, or you’ll be given non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to take orally. Therapy is another treatment option. This may involve exercises that can strengthen your shoulders and arms. If treatment is recommended, then you should take care to ensure that the therapist is experienced and qualified to provide care for these types of injuries. Corticosteroid injection may also be given, or you may be asked to go for ultrasound therapy. Your doctor will provide you with all the possible options available, and you can choose the most suitable one for you. Just remember to stick to the treatment plan as recommended to prevent any chances of failure. 

If the rotator cuffs are just swollen but not torn, you may use cold or hot packs to reduce the swelling. You may also have to wear a sling to reduce the range of motion of the arm to prevent further damage. 

Oral drugs, rest, and therapy are frequently adequate treatment. Accordingly, if this treatment is effective, you may not require additional treatment. However, if these methods of treatment fail, surgery may be required.

Surgery is often given as the last option when others have failed or if the damage is too extensive. If you are given other alternatives as treatment options, but you don’t follow the instructions, the tear could worsen. In that case, surgery will be performed to correct the tear. In some cases, if the diagnosis shows that other treatment options won’t work because of the extent of the damage, surgery will be recommended. It is usually done once and may be used with oral prescriptions. 

Rehabilitation following a rotator cuff tear

Rotator cuff injuries are common and may occur again after the first treatment. It is, therefore, essential to take precautions to ensure they don’t reoccur. Avoiding overuse of the arm is one of the best ways to rehabilitate a rotator cuff tear. You need to ensure that you don’t use the arm too much. If you’re a sports person, then you need to take frequent brakes. Avoiding over-stretching of the arms is also essential. You need to be careful about the range of motion that you give your arms. In case you feel pain, you need to see a doctor immediately. Procrastinating a visit to the doctor could worsen the arm. 

Rotator cuff injuries and relation to automobile accidents 

Although most rotator cuff tears are caused by wear and tear, some injuries can result from automobile accidents. Most of the time, this happens when someone sees a potential collision and uses their arms to protect themselves against the steering wheel. Since the body will be in tension, the shoulders will be venerable, and this makes it very easy for a tear to occur.

Many insurance companies don’t take responsibility for this type of injury, even if the party they insured is at fault in the accident. For this reason, it’s a good idea to work with a law firm that understands that this type of tear is possible in an accident and will ensure you are compensated adequately for current treatment, future treatment needs, and any loss of use or mobility.