About 2 million people per year suffer rotator cuff injuries, but knowing you’re not alone likely doesn’t make the pain and limited mobility that accompanies one any easier to bear.
Dr. Ashish Rawal has expertise in treating rotator cuff tears using conservative approaches as well as surgical ones. The caring OrthoTeam Clinic staff at our offices in Stoughton and Madison, Wisconsin, is committed to freeing you from rotator cuff tear pain and the movement problems that sideline you. The practice also provides a wide range of other orthopedic services.
Understanding your rotator cuff
First, it’s good to learn about rotator cuff anatomy, what it does and how it works.
Your rotator cuff consists of four tendons that keep your ball and socket shoulder joint securely in place. It also supports the smooth movement of your shoulder, allowing you to lift and rotate your arm.
Have you suffered a rotator cuff tear?
You might experience a tear from decreased blood flow, wear and tear that accompanies getting older or wear and tear from engaging in sports or other activities. Or you may sustain one from a sudden traumatic injury. Symptoms include:
- Pain in the front of your shoulder that radiates down your arm’s side
- Arm weakness, especially when trying to put your arm behind your back
- Pain if you attempt to sleep on your affected side
- A snapping sound when the tear occurs, then the sudden onset of pain
Don’t try to “power through” rotator cuff tear pain since failing to seek treatment can expand the tear as time passes. You also put yourself at risk for re-injury if you don’t get the initial tear checked out.
What can I expect after my rotator cuff tear?
Your recovery from a rotator cuff tear depends on the severity of the tear and the treatment you receive.
Dr. Rawal’s customized treatment plans take into account the degree to which your movement is limited, your pain level, how long you’ve been experiencing symptoms, and how much they’ve worsened. Your age and overall health impact your recovery, too.
The good news is that Dr. Rawal offers a variety of treatments, depending on your situation. Conservative approaches include medications, steroid injections, simple rest, a course of physical therapy, or a combination of these.
Though rotator cuff tears don’t heal by themselves without surgery, you can get increased movement and reduced pain through nonsurgical treatments and by working to strengthen your shoulder muscles. The good news is that approximately 8 out of 10 people with partial tears get better using these nonsurgical treatments. However, it may take up to a year for your condition to improve.
If Dr. Rawal recommends a surgical solution, recovery may take a bit longer, but the minimally invasive surgery that’s performed to repair your rotator cuff doesn't have the degree of trauma that traditional open surgery does.
Dr. Rawal has specialized training in arthroscopic surgery and is also an Associate Master Instructor for the Arthroscopy Association of North America, so you’re in the best hands here. He determines which type of tear you have in order to decide on a surgical solution.
A partial tear means that the tendon hasn’t separated from the arm bone, while with a full thickness tear — which can render your arm useless — it has.
With a partial tear, Dr. Rawal can trim ragged pieces of partially torn tendon to prevent your shoulder’s ball and socket from getting caught on the tendon and worsening a tear.
You’ll need to keep your arm immobilized for a month to six weeks post-surgery. A sling may help with this.
WIth a full tear, Dr. Rawal reattaches your tendons to your shoulder bone during surgery. Physical therapy is typically the next step. It can take about four to six weeks for your shoulder to function normally again, and full recovery may take a year to 18 months.
With minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery, Dr. Rawal uses an arthroscope, a tiny camera at the end of a slender tube inserted into the treatment area through a small “keyhole” incision.
The camera provides images to help him perform the surgery with great precision, and specially designed instruments allow him to remove any bone spurs, as well as reattach your tendon to your arm bone.
Traditional open surgery requires a single long incision, so minimally invasive procedures are much less traumatic to your body and are associated with a host of patient benefits:
- Quicker recovery
- Less pain
- Less bleeding
- Reduced scarring
- Lower risk for complications
Visit our office to gain peace of mind about your torn rotator cuff discomfort and movement problems, and get the right treatment plan for you.
Call one of our offices to schedule an in-person or telemedicine consultation, or book one online. We’re here to help!