Shoulder Injuries Are A Common Threat
The shoulder has a network of bones, muscles, and tendons that help with movement and flexibility. The constant use of the shoulder makes injuries a high possibility. A rotator cuff tear is the most common. An estimated 1 in 5 persons get rotator cuff tears of varying degrees. Fortunately, there are treatment options, including arthroscopic rotator cuff surgery.
Breaking down the rotator cuff
There is a ball and socket joint where the shoulder and upper arm meet. Close to these bones are 4 major muscles. Each muscle has a tendon that wraps around the ball and socket joint, forming the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff allows the shoulder to be flexible while supporting and protecting the bones. These tendons can suffer partial or full tears, causing pain and loss of motion. Injuries can be acute or chronic. Some persons are more susceptible to these tears than others.
An aging shoulder
Older men and women are more at risk of rotator cuff tears. Tendons lose strength and flexibility over time. This makes the ligaments more prone to partial or full tears. Persons over 40 are the largest group with the injury. Persons over 60 will commonly have some degree of damage, often without any symptoms.
On the job damage
Some jobs have a higher risk of rotator cuff tears than others. Construction workers, for example, are more prone to rotator cuff tears. These workers use heavy machinery that places repeated strain on the muscles and tendons. Other jobs require lifting heavy objects overhead or even climbing. Persons in physical careers should check with a doctor if any symptoms of the injury start to appear.
Tearing it up on the field
Repeated force or action on the shoulder can cause a rotator cuff tear. High-performance sports come to mind. Athletes regularly use the shoulder to throw, dodge, shoot, or accelerate. Baseball players, in particular, place great force on the rotator cuff to pitch, hit, and throw. Over 58% of professional baseball players get shoulder injuries. No other professional sport has more.
Treating the tear
Anyone with a suspected rotator cuff injury must visit a doctor immediately to avoid the risk of further injury. Using an x-ray or MRI, the doctor can diagnose the extent of the damage. Partial tears are treated with a combination of ice packs, medication, and physical therapy. For full tears, surgery helps reduce pain and restore range of motion. Arthroscopic rotator cuff surgery is a minimally invasive way to repair the torn tendon.
How doctors perform rotator cuff surgery
After administering anesthesia, the surgeon inserts an arthroscope into the shoulder. The arthroscope has a high-powered camera that gives the surgeon a picture of the damage. After that, the surgeon makes 2 or more small incisions to insert more surgical tools. These tools will help the surgeon grab the severed tendon to reattach the bone. To hold the tendon in place, the surgeon will use a combination of stitches and anchors. More severe damage may require a smooth and move procedure. From there, the tools are removed and the incisions stitched up.
Surgery usually happens in a few hours and is an outpatient procedure. Taking into account age and the extent of damage, surgery has a 75% success rate on average. Even after surgery, patients must go through physical therapy and pain management. With any surgical procedure comes a small chance of risk, including infection. So be sure to address any concerns before going under the knife.
Don’t ignore your shoulder pain
Persons who are at high risk and experience symptoms of pain or discomfort should seek medical help immediately. Sometimes the pain could be minimal and easy to ignore. Over time, however, the tear gets worse, causing more pain and a longer recovery. Arthroscopic rotator cuff surgery could be the solution to a lifetime of shoulder pain. To learn more, speak with a surgeon or orthopedic specialist.