Shoulder pain is a common ailment of patients who perform repetitive upper body activities. This can include both athletes and less active patients, as the pain often develops gradually over time with excessive use. Over time, repetitive upper body motions can lead to rotator cuff damage, causing inflammation, soreness, and loss of shoulder function.
The rotator cuff refers to a group of muscles that attach to the shoulder that are critical to upper body movement. The muscles in the rotator cuff act to stabilize the shoulder and provide strength to the joint as it lifts and rotates the arm. Through natural wear-and-tear, as well as acute trauma, the rotator cuff can tear, leading to pain, limited range of motion, and joint immobility. Rotator cuff injuries make upper arm motions, such as lifting the arm laterally, painful and difficult.
The rotator cuff can often heal naturally through conservative treatment options; however, more severe tears may require surgery. Whenever surgery is indicated, shoulder arthroscopy is commonly considered the best approach. Shoulder arthroscopy is less invasive than traditional open surgery, and allows patients to heal more quickly with less post-operative pain and irritation. Additionally, arthroscopic surgery is often performed on an outpatient basis, allowing patients to recovery from the comfort of their own home.
Rotator Cuff Injuries and Shoulder Pain
Rotator cuff injuries are fairly common, and are usually caused by repetitive upper body motions. Sources of rotator cuff irritation include pitching in baseball, serving in tennis, swimming, or lifting heavy objects over the head. Patients whose work routinely requires upper body activity, such as painters or carpenters, are also susceptible to rotator cuff damage or micro tears. Additionally, trauma to the shoulder, such as falling onto an outstretch arm or a sudden jerking motion when lifting a heavy object, can cause the rotator cuff to tear.
Treating Rotator Cuff Injuries
Depending on the severity of the tear, patients may be able to heal an injured rotator cuff through conservative treatments. Physical therapy, rehabilitation, physical therapy, or NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) treatment can potentially strengthen the surrounding muscles and ligaments while allowing the rotator cuff to heal naturally.
Depending on the severity of the tear and the patient's lifestyle, surgery may be a more attractive option. Athletes and patients who demand more from their bodies may require a quicker recovery than conservative approaches will allow. Furthermore, some rotator cuff tears are too severe to heal on their own, and may require intervention to properly mend the injured muscles. Whenever surgery is indicated, arthroscopic surgery is commonly seen as the best approach.
Surgery may be indicated for a number of other reasons, including:
- Shoulder pain and immobility symptoms have lasted more than six months
- The rotator cuff tear is larger than an inch
- The patient experiences significant loss of shoulder function
Arthroscopic Shoulder Surgery
Shoulder arthroscopy is a minimally invasive surgical approach that uses fiber-optics to give surgeons an inside view of the joint. By making a small incision on the shoulder and inserting a tiny camera, known as an "arthroscope", the surgeon can see the joint from within and navigate the joint structure without detaching muscle or opening up the joint.
Through a second incision, the shoulder surgeon inserts the operating instruments, roughly pencil-sized, to repair the damaged muscles. Arthroscopic repair is considered the least invasive approach, and is usually performed on an outpatient basis.
Shoulder Pain Treatment in Baton Rouge, LA
Dr. Craig C. Greene is a sports medicine and arthroscopic specialist, and routinely treats patients suffering from shoulder pain and rotator cuff injuries. Dr. Greene and the staff at Baton Rouge Orthopaedic Clinic can help diagnose shoulder pain and suggest the treatment option that works best for the patient. For more information about shoulder pain treatment, schedule an appointment with Dr. Greene at his offices in Bluebonnet Boulevard.