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Shoulder Arthroscopy for Rotator Cuff Repair

  • Dec 19 2019

Is shoulder arthroscopy surgery the best treatment for a rotator cuff tear?

Most people know they have a rotator cuff. Many are even acquainted with someone who has experienced the pain, loss of mobility and lengthy recovery time that results from an injury to this part of the shoulder. That said, it would likely be a stretch for them to describe exactly what a rotator cuff is. 

The shoulder joint is one of the strongest and most important joints in the body. In addition to attaching the upper arm bone, the humerus, to the shoulder blade, the scapula, this is the ball and socket joint that enables us to lift and rotate the arm. With hardly giving it a thought, we use our shoulders joints hundreds, if not thousands, of times a day, and all of these movements are made possible because of the rotator cuff, which basically holds the joint together. 

The rotator cuff is made up of tendons and muscles that surround the bones of the joint almost like a basket. This structure provides stability and allows for the various types of movements. There are four muscles that, along with the tendons, form the rotator cuff. They are:

  • supraspinatus
  • Infraspinatus
  • Subscapularis
  • teres minor

Rotator Cuff Injuries

While most rotator cuff injuries generally happen over time due to the wear and tear that comes with aging or from repetitive motion injuries, the tear in the tendons or muscles can happen as the immediate result of lifting a heavy object or from some other sort of severe demand on the shoulder. The first clue that you have torn or injured the rotator cuff may be a sharp pain or what feels like a snap in the upper arm. Other signs and symptoms of a rotator cuff tear, whether from an immediate or long-term cause, include:

  • Shoulder pain, especially when reaching overhead or behind the back
  • Pain that is more noticeable at night 
  • Decreased mobility and range of motion
  • Hard, if not impossible to sleep on the side with the injured shoulder
  • Loss of power and strength in the affected shoulder that tends to get progressively worse
  • Recognition that activities are being avoided due to anticipated pain

Treatment for Rotator Cuff Tears

A rotator cuff injury is not something to ignore. Often, if the tear is only slight, conservative, non-invasive treatment methods are sufficient. These will generally include a period of rest and reduced activity, in conjunction with medication for pain and inflammation. Physical therapy may also be recommended.

For more serious rotator cuff tears, surgery may be deemed necessary. Traditionally, the tendon was repaired using open surgery, which required making a large incision. Today, the preferred method for repairing a rotator cuff tear is arthroscopic surgery. Making only two small incisions, the surgeon is able to insert a tiny camera into one and use it to guide miniature tools inserted through the other one. 

Shoulder arthroscopy is not the best choice in every situation, but it does come with significant benefits. Because of reduce tissue damage, the patient will typically end up with less scarring and a shorter, less painful recovery period. 

If you have questions about shoulder arthroscopy, rotator cuff injuries or any other orthopedic concerns, the physicians and staff of South Island Orthopedics are very experienced in a wide range of orthopedic conditions and are committed to providing personalized care in a state-of-the-art facility. To schedule an appointment, or if you just have questions, please use our convenient online contact form by clicking here

Posted in: Neck/Back & Shoulder