You may not realize how often you use your shoulders until you experience pain in them or cannot move them at all. Shoulder conditions such as rotator cuff tear and frozen shoulder are common orthopedic issues that we treat every day. While they may seem similar, they are actually very different and can be treated differently.
What is Rotator Cuff Tear?
The shoulder joint is surrounded by a group of muscles called the rotator cuff. These muscles work in unison with tendons to stabilize the shoulder joint so that you can move your arms easily. In other words, they are extremely essential for the proper functioning of the shoulder joint.
Tears in the rotator cuff can occur in two ways:
- Partial Tear: A partial tear means that only a portion of the tendon is damaged.
- Complete Tear: A complete tear means that the entire tendon has been pulled away from the bone.
Causes of Rotator Cuff Tear
A rotator cuff tear can result from an acute injury like a fall or from age-related wear and tear. At first, you’ll experience pain in the front of your shoulder that travels down your arm. If you indulge in activities like lifting, the pain may worsen. Also, it may aggravate if you try sleeping on the affected side. Consequently, you may note weakness in your arm and difficulty accomplishing daily tasks like combing your hair or reaching behind your back.
Symptoms of Rotator Cuff Tear
You may not have any problems with your rotator cuff until you start to feel pain in your shoulder or night pain that keeps you from sleeping. If the tear is small, you might be able to use your arm. But if the tear is large, you won’t be able to lift your arm at all. In rare cases, a tear can lead to a condition called shoulder arthritis.
Diagnosis of Rotator Cuff Tear
For starters, the doctor performs a clinical examination of the shoulder joint. An X-ray is taken into account as well, followed by an MRI scan. The MRI scan helps determine the extent of the tear and calculate the amount of retraction and fatty degeneration in the rotator cuff.
Treatment of Rotator Cuff Tear
Arthroscopic tendon repair is one of the best arthroscopy treatment options available for a torn rotator cuff. Several keyholes are made around the shoulder, and the surgery is performed through these keyholes with the help of a camera and other instruments. To reduce rubbing on the rotator cuff, a bony spur is removed from underneath the acromion (the top part of your shoulder blade). If your tear is extensive and involves more than one part of your rotator cuff, sutures are employed to repair it.
What is a frozen shoulder? How is it different from other kinds of shoulder pain?
Frozen shoulder is a condition that develops when your shoulder joint is compromised. It also affects the shoulder capsule—a tissue that encircles the shoulder joint. When you start developing a frozen shoulder, the capsule becomes thick and stiff. As a result, you find moving your arm or shoulder difficult. Also, it results in the loss of synovial fluid, which helps keep the joint lubricated for a smooth movement.
Sometimes people confuse frozen shoulder with a rotator cuff tear. But the symptoms of a rotator cuff tear are different from those of a frozen shoulder. With a rotator cuff tear, you will experience limited movement in your arm and may be able to lift it yourself. Frozen shoulder pain is characterized by constant aches and is largely caused by immobility.
Women are more likely to develop frozen shoulder than men. It’s a common problem for those in their 50s and 60s. But people with frozen shoulder can benefit from taking aspirin or ibuprofen, which reduce inflammation. Surgery and joint distension are other treatment options for severe cases.