If you suffer from a rotator cuff injury or condition, you need experienced surgeons who specialize in shoulder disorders. The orthopedic surgeons at MedStar Orthopaedic Institute are all fellowship-trained and focus exclusively on shoulder conditions and surgeries. No matter how complex your injury or condition, we have the skills and the expertise to find an effective solution for you. As leaders in the field, we develop advanced new surgical methods and even teach surgical procedures to surgeons around the country.
Whenever possible, we offer you minimally invasive surgical techniques, which use smaller incisions and sophisticated instruments to repair your injury with a faster, less painful recovery than traditional surgery. We also specialize in innovative procedures including arthroscopic rotator cuff repair. We’ll spend time with you and your family to explain your condition and develop a treatment plan that will be most effective for you. Our priority is eliminating your pain and helping you feel healthy and strong once again.
What is a rotator cuff injury?
Three bones form the shoulder joint, including the collarbone, the upper arm bone, and the shoulder blade. Together, these bones give the shoulder its wide range of motion. Attached to the shoulder is a group of muscles known collectively as the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff keeps your arm in place while allowing your arm to move freely. When the rotator cuff is injured, it can cause pain and decreased range of motion.
What kinds of injuries affect the rotator cuff?
Rotator Cuff Tear
These tears are a common cause of shoulder pain and disability in adults and can seriously inhibit many daily activities, like combing your hair or getting dressed. This type of injury typically results from a wearing down of the tendon, which occurs slowly over time. It can also be caused by sudden trauma. There are two types of rotator cuff tears:
- Partial thickness tear – The tendon tissue frays, but does not completely tear.
- Full thickness tear – The tendon tissue tears into two pieces.
Tendinosis and Bursitis
Tendonitis and bursitis, both inflammatory conditions, are the most common causes of shoulder pain and stiffness. They can result from repetitive motion—such as in sports—or from a serious, sudden injury. The conditions are most common in adults older than 40, as the tendons have aged and are more susceptible to injury.
- Tendonitis occurs when tendons in the rotator cuff become inflamed or irritated.
- Tendinosis occurs when damage to the tendon develops over time from a previous injury or injuries that did not heal completely.
- Bursitis occurs when the fluid-filled sac that protects the space between tendons and bones becomes inflamed or irritated.
What are the symptoms?
In general, rotator cuff injuries can cause the following symptoms:
- Shoulder pain, which can vary from mild to severe
- Shoulder or upper arm pain that awakens you at night
- Shoulder weakness
- Shoulder tenderness
- Difficulty raising and lowering the arm
- Cracking sound when you move the shoulder
How is it diagnosed?
The orthopedic surgeons at MedStar Orthopaedic Institute are experts at diagnosing rotator cuff injuries. Our initial exam seeks to rule out other causes of your pain, and generally includes:
- Medical history evaluation – This includes asking questions about when your pain began, what makes the pain feels most severe, and if you have had other injuries in the affected location. Other questions may be about whether you have other medical problems and if you take any medications.
- Physical exam – Your orthopedist will examine your shoulder to check for areas of sensitivity, determine your arm strength, and your shoulder flexibility.
- Imaging tests – Your orthopedist may want to examine the bones and joints themselves using a variety of imaging techniques, including:
- X-ray, which can help determine if you have a bone spur, which is a growth on the bones that can cause inflammation
- Ultrasound, which uses sound waves to create a picture of your shoulder tissues, and can show inflammation and tears
- MRI, which uses powerful magnets and computer technology to create a picture of your shoulder tissues that may indicate the size and age of your rotator cuff tear
What are the best treatment options?
The orthopedists at MedStar Orthopaedic Institute have specialized expertise in treating rotator cuff injuries. We aim to ease your pain and restore your strength and range of motion. We offer the following conservative treatments options:
- Anti-inflammatory or pain medication
- Steroid injections
- Physical therapy
When your injuries do not heal with conservative treatment options, our physicians may recommend arthroscopic rotator cuff surgery to properly restore your shoulder function.
If you believe you may be suffering from a rotator cuff injury, call 202-295-0511 to schedule a consultation with one of our orthopedic specialists at MedStar Orthopaedic Institute. Our doctors have years of experience diagnosing and treating rotator cuff injuries and are pleased to offer comprehensive shoulder care in the Washington, D.C. area.