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Rotator Cuff Injuries: Surgery vs. Rehab

Posted 2/27/2015 by UHBlog

Get back in the game sooner with total orthopedic care under one roof.

Do you feel pain in the front of your shoulder? Are everyday activities like lifting and reaching troublesome? You may have a rotator cuff injury.

"Rotator cuff injuries are one of the most painful because the body is trying to use a muscle that is no longer attached at one end," says sports medicine and shoulder surgery expert Daniel Zanotti, MD.

The rotator cuff consists of four muscles and the surrounding tendons that hold the shoulder in place. It is one of the most important parts of the shoulder. Many times, injuries to the rotator cuff occur from repeated overhead motions. Other times, the damage happens suddenly, such as falling on an outstretched arm. Age can also be a culprit.

When the rotator cuff muscles or tendons are torn, you feel it. Symptoms might include:

  • Recurrent pain, especially with certain activities and at night
  • Pain that prevents sleeping on the injured side
  • Grating or cracking sounds when moving the arm
  • Limited ability to move arm
  • Muscle weakness

"If you're having shoulder pain, you want to be seen sooner rather than later," Dr. Zanotti says. "Small tears are easier to fix." In fact, by ignoring the injury, you could cause the tear to extend or get larger over time.

According to Dr. Zanotti, when you're seen and diagnosed early, the doctor can often use less invasive courses of treatment, such as anti-inflammatory medication, steroid injections and physical therapy to relieve pain and restore strength to the involved shoulder. Although most tears don't heal on their own, often you can regain function through rehab and physical therapy.

If your shoulder doesn't improve, your doctor may recommend surgery. Dr. Zanotti performs arthroscopic surgery, a minimally invasive surgical procedure, at University Hospitals Sheffield Health Center, Center for Orthopedics. After surgery, expect to go through rehab for four to six months to help you regain and enhance your shoulder strength.

Daniel Zanotti, MD is a sports medicine and shoulder surgery specialist. You can request an appointment with Dr. Zanotti or any other Center for Orthopedics health care provider online or by calling 440-329-2800.

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