Rotator cuff injuries are common occurrences seen throughout adulthood. Symptoms include pain, weakness with overhead activities, and a catching sensation in the shoulder. Frequently, night pain is a common complaint. A physical exam with x-rays can often provide good insight into the problem. Treatment may include non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, exercises, or injections. When symptoms have been present for a number of weeks or months, an MRI scan may be ordered that will show the extent of rotator cuff injuries. Partial or complete tears are common.
Nonsurgical treatment of a partial thickness tear is frequently successful with recovery times of one to two months. Full thickness or complete tears that can be repaired arthroscopically may require a 90 day healing period.
Massive rotator cuff tears that are not repairable and do not respond to conservative treatment may benefit from a Reverse Total Shoulder, a type of shoulder replacement that does not require a functioning rotator cuff. This procedure has been available in the United States for approximately fifteen years. It is very successful in treating a condition that, at one time, had few options available.
Shoulder arthritis is a different condition than a rotator cuff tear although both can present with pain. Generally, an arthritic shoulder will have stiffness and discomfort and often a normal rotator cuff. Treatment for osteoarthritis of the shoulder may include medications, injections and rest. Therapy is typically not recommended for osteoarthritis of the shoulder. If stiffness and pain are severe, then a shoulder replacement, replacing the ball and socket, is a solution that can provide excellent relief of pain and can dramatically improve shoulder function.