Shoulder pain is a common problem for many people, especially as they age. In fact, as many as two-thirds of people suffer from sore shoulders at some point during their lifetimes, and many of those symptoms are due to problems with the rotator cuff.
With offices in West Orange and Bayonne, New Jersey, James M. Lee Jr., MD, offers tailored treatment plans at Orange Orthopaedic Associates for patients with all sorts of shoulder pain, including rotator cuff problems.
Here’s why having an early evaluation is an important first step in getting the most appropriate care — and the quickest relief of your symptoms.
Rotator cuff basics
A ball-and-socket joint, the shoulder forms where the rounded ball end of the upper arm bone (humerus) meets the curved socket of the shoulder bone (scapular) and collarbone (clavicle).
The rotator cuff is a group of muscles that supports shoulder movement and stability. These muscles attach to the scapula and humerus via tendons, helping hold the shoulder joint together.
Sometimes, these muscles or tendons become injured, irritated,or even torn. Some injuries are the result of falls, car accidents, or other traumatic injuries, including sports injuries. But many rotator cuff problems are caused by repetitive wear-and-tear.
Tears can also occur when bone spurs form along the edge of the joint, often as a side effect of arthritis.
Rotator cuff injuries cause a range of symptoms, like:
- Deep shoulder pain or dull aching
- Pain or aching when lifting your arm
- Arm or shoulder weakness
- Shoulder stiffness or reduced range of motion
Because a rotator cuff injury impairs shoulder movement, you might have difficulty with simple activities, like reaching over your head or brushing your hair, or you might find it difficult to sleep comfortably.
Rotator cuff treatment options
Some serious rotator cuff injuries need surgery to repair a badly torn muscle and restore normal movement to the joint, especially if you use your shoulders a lot for work or other activities.
But other less severe injuries often respond well to conservative treatment options tailored to your needs and your lifestyle. Here are a few of them.
RICE stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Together, these techniques help relieve pain and promote healing in the area. Look for ways to adjust your routine to relieve strain on your shoulder, and try an ice pack to reduce painful inflammation around the joint.
Oral medications or injections
Over-the-counter and prescription medications can help relieve both pain and inflammation. If these medicines aren’t effective, Dr. Lee often recommends corticosteroid injections.
Administered directly to the injured joint tissue, corticosteroids reduce inflammation that contributes to pain and interferes with healing.
Using a sling
Even if you’re not using your arm, simply having your arm hanging loose by your side can put strain on the joint. Wearing a sling relieves that strain while supporting your shoulder and giving it the rest it needs to heal.
Physical therapy uses special exercises and stretching techniques to improve strength and flexibility in the shoulder joint while also promoting healing. Your therapy plan includes at-home exercises and suggestions to modify your activities during recovery and beyond.
Relieve your nagging shoulder pain
Like other joint problems, rotator cuff issues respond best to prompt medical treatment. If you delay seeking care, you could wind up with a permanent loss of function in your shoulder, along with a lifetime of discomfort.
If you’re having shoulder pain or other symptoms that affect the way you use your shoulder, we can help. To learn how, book an appointment online or over the phone with Dr. Lee and our team at Orange Orthopaedic Associates today.