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What are the Different Types of Rotator Cuff Treatment?

By Nat Robinson
Updated May 17, 2024
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The rotator cuff is made up of several different tendons and muscles in the shoulder. These structures connect the bones in the upper portion of the arm to the shoulder blade. The connection of the tendons and muscles make it possible to rotate the arm into various positions. This motion is made possible by the ball of the upper arm fitting precisely into the socket of the shoulder joint. Injuries to the rotator cuff tendon can limit the ability to flex and use these muscles, making rotator cuff treatment essentially necessary.

Generally, the rotator cuff can be injured in several different ways. In many cases, the rotator cuff can wear down due to wear and tear occurring over the course of a person's life. Repetitive activities causing the rotator cuff to be used for long periods of time in one general motion can wear the structure out as well. Sometimes, an automobile accident or fall from a great length can injure the rotator cuff. In most cases, rotator cuff treatment will depend considerably on the significance of an injury.

Once a person damages his or her rotator cuff, the symptoms can become quite troublesome. The pain can be very debilitating. Sometimes, the pain can become so severe, that an individual may face great difficulty trying to lift or rotate his or her arm in certain directions. Additional rotator cuff symptoms can include tenderness, swelling, soreness, weakness in the shoulder and a limited range in which the arm can be moved. It is commonly a combination of significant pain and the limited range of motion that lead an individual to seek rotator cuff treatment.

Rest is commonly prescribed as an initial rotator cuff treatment. The shoulder and arm should be rested as much as possible. It is generally a good idea to cut back on strenuous activities until the pain and greatest symptoms subside. Some doctors may also advise their patients to apply ice to the shoulder at short intervals. The ice may be used to reduce swelling.

Rotator cuff treatment may also involve medications. Many individuals take over the counter pain relievers to alleviate intense bouts of pain. Anti-inflammatory medications may also be used to reduce shoulder swelling. Some individuals may benefit from taking corticosteroids for inflammation in the shoulder. This type of medicine treatment may be administered orally or by an injection.

Physical therapy may also be prescribed as treatment. Rotator cuff therapy may be used to strengthen the weak muscles and tendons in the shoulder. It may take several weeks or months of shoulder rehab before an individual notices an improvement in his or her shoulder or arm. Minor levels of injury may improve rather quickly from rotator cuff rehab.

Surgery may also be used as a rotator cuff treatment. This form of medical treatment is most commonly administered when there is a significant tear in the rotator cuff. The type of surgery a person receives commonly depends on the degree of damage. An individual without a great injury but who is suffering debilitating symptoms may have surgery as well. Doctors will perform a variety of tests and interview the patient to discover which type of rotator cuff surgery he or she may benefit from the most overall.

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