The rotator cuff is a group of tendons and muscles that surround the shoulder and hold its components in place. A rotator cuff injury occurs when a tendon in the rotator cuff tears or is otherwise damaged.
Most patients with a rotator cuff tear will experience pain located deep in the shoulder. This pain is usually experienced as a dull ache that may disturb the patient’s sleep, especially if the patient lies on the affected shoulder. In some cases, the shoulder pain from a rotator cuff tear will be accompanied by weakness in the arm, a reduced range of motion, and a cracking sensation with certain movements.
In some cases, a rotator cuff tear may occur because of a trauma to the shoulder, such as an impact. In other cases, patients may develop a rotator cuff tear when the patient overuses the shoulder, which leads to a progressive degeneration of the tendon tissue. Patients who frequently engage in repetitive overhead activity may be at a higher risk of developing a rotator cuff tear.
Dr. Nickson begins evaluating a patient for a possible rotator cuff tear by performing an examination of the shoulder. During this examination, he may move the shoulder gently to determine which motions cause the patient’s pain. Dr. Nickson will also review the patient’s medical history, ask relevant questions, and order any necessary tests to confirm the diagnosis.
Dr. Nickson always favors conservative treatments over surgery. Nonsurgical treatments for a rotator cuff tear include resting the shoulder, limiting the movement of the shoulder, and physical therapy. However, if these conservative treatment measures don’t effectively eliminate the patient’s pain, Dr. Nickson may recommend surgery. In most cases, he will recommend a minimally-invasive arthroscopic procedure to patients with this condition.
In some cases, patients may experience pain and limitations in the rotator cuff because of tendonitis instead of a tear. Tendonitis occurs when a tendon in the rotator cuff becomes inflamed. Dr. Nickson can diagnose tendonitis and help patients recover from this painful condition.
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