How Do I Know if I Have a Rotator Cuff Injury?

orthopedics in Westchester County

How Do I Know if I Have a Rotator Cuff Injury?

Rotator cuff injuries are extremely common, but can often go undiagnosed. Some patients may not even be fully aware of where the rotator cuff is located precisely. A rotator cuff is essentially a group of muscles and tendons that keeps your upper arm bone firmly in its shoulder socket. Individuals who have had rotator cuff injuries can attest to how painful and debilitating it can be, even when you’re only doing everyday activities. In order to know if you do in fact have a rotator cuff injury, it’s vital to understand whether or not you’re at risk, what the common causes are, and the types of symptoms you should be monitoring. If you’ve been dealing with discomfort and pain in your rotator cuff and have been searching for orthopedics in Westchester County, contact us at New York Sports Medicine Institute. We offer both orthopedic care and physical therapy treatments for our patients to help them get back on track. Continue reading if you want to learn more about rotator cuff injuries and how you can detect whether you have one or not. 

Who is at Risk?

Being that the rotator cuff is responsible for keeping your arm bone stabilized in the shoulder socket, individuals who perform repetitive motions with their arms can be at risk of developing a rotator cuff injury. Some examples include carpenters, painters, and those who are lifting objects repeatedly. Those who play sports such as baseball, tennis, and wrestling, which involve constant repetitive arm motions, are also at risk for a rotator cuff injury to occur. As patients age, their risk for developing this type of injury also increases, making older individuals much more susceptible to rotator cuff injuries.

Common Causes

Some of the common causes of rotator cuff injuries can vary, depending on the severity of your particular injury. Rotator cuff injuries are typically broken down into three distinct categories, such as:

  1. Tendonitis – a condition that can occur if the rotator cuff is being overused, causing inflammation in the tendons.
  2. Bursitis – caused by inflammation of the bursa, or fluid-filled sacs in between the rotator cuff and the arm bone. 
  3. Rotator cuff strains or tears – this can be caused by an acute injury or overuse of the rotator cuff over time. This occurs when the tendons that connect muscles to bones becomes overstretched or even torn. This type of rotator cuff injury typically causes immediate and severe pain. 

Symptoms of a Rotator Cuff Injury

It’s important to note that not all rotator cuff injuries lead to the development of pain. Some rotator cuff injuries can be the result of certain conditions that build up over a period of time. That being said, some common types of symptoms associated with rotator cuff injuries may include the following:

  • The weakening of the shoulder. 
  • Tenderness or pain when trying to reach overhead.
  • Pain in the shoulder, which is heightened at night.
  • Difficulty sleeping on the afflicted shoulder.
  • Loss of full range of motion in the shoulder and/or arm.
  • Deep to dull aches in the shoulder and/or arm. 
  • Unable to carry out normal activities due to pain or discomfort.

If you have been experiencing any of these symptoms for a duration lasting longer than a week, it’s crucial you visit an orthopedic surgeon.

Diagnosing a Rotator Cuff Injury

A doctor will be able to determine and diagnose your rotator cuff injury by conducting a physical examination, analyzing previous medical history, and utilizing various imaging scans. These scans can include: 

  • X-rays.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
  • Ultrasounds.

Your orthopedic surgeon will be looking to see what your arms range of motion is like if there are any tears present, and whether other conditions such as arthritis, can be ruled out. 

Treatment Options

If you are diagnosed with a rotator cuff injury, there are several different treatment plans available. These options can range from home remedies to surgery depending on the extent of your injury. 

Non-invasive treatment methods have been reported to help improve symptoms by nearly 50%. These various treatments consist of: 

  • Applying cold or hot packs to reduce swelling and inflammation.
  • Resting the affected shoulder and wearing a sling for added support.
  • Exercising to help restore and improve your arms range of motion. 
  • Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen.
  • Physical therapy. 

Other forms of treatment, such as surgery and injections, are typically recommended for those who have a much more severe rotator cuff injury. Steroid injections into the shoulder joint can provide temporary relief, but should not be used frequently as they can weaken your tendons. When it comes to surgery, there are various different kinds that can be performed depending on the type of rotator cuff injury you may have developed. 

How to Prevent Future Rotator Cuff Injuries

Preventing rotator cuff injuries from happening in the future is possible. If you have had a previous rotator cuff injury, it’s important to consult with your physical therapist so they can provide you with daily stretches and exercises to help strengthen your shoulder. If you have been looking for orthopedics in Westchester County, visit us at New York Sports Medicine Institute. Not only do we offer superlative orthopedic care in Westchester County, but we also have highly-experienced physical therapists who work one-on-one with our patients to ensure they stay injury-free. Other prevention methods can consist of taking a break from playing strenuous sports or avoiding repetitive motions involving the arm and shoulder.  

Contact Us

If you have been experiencing pain in your rotator cuff and think you might have an injury, contact us at New York Sports Medicine Institute. Our orthopedics in Westchester County are highly-experienced in handling these types of injuries and can help provide you with the appropriate treatment plans necessary. So don’t wait, contact us today to schedule an appointment!