Do rotator cuff tears heal on their own? This is probably one of the most common medical questions especially since rotator cuff tears are quite prevalent especially as a person grows older. To appropriately respond to such condition, it is essential that you understand what exactly are rotator cuff tears and when you need to see the doctor.
What a rotator cuff is
The first thing to understand is what a rotator cuff is. The word cuff gives a clue about the nature of this body part. It is basically a group of muscles made up of teres minor, infraspinatus, subscapularis, and supraspinatus. They come together to form tendons located at the top part of the humerus. This group is called a cuff because they literally form a cuff right on the head of the upper arm bone.
What a rotator cuff does
The next thing to look into is the functions of a rotator cuff. Just by its location, you can get an idea of what it does. Located right at the head of the humerus and under the shoulder blade, the rotator cuff does two important things. First, it serves as an aid in rotating and lifting the arm. Second, it improves the stability of shoulder movement.
Causes of rotator cuff tears
After understanding what a rotator cuff is and what it does, the focus is now given to rotator cuff tears specifically their causes. Typically, a rotator cuff tear is a result from either an injury or constant strenuous activity that results to too much stress on that part of the body. A fall, for example, is one of the most common causes of rotator cuff tears. Athletes are also prone to rotator cuff tears because of the nature of their profession.
How can you determine if you are suffering from rotator cuff tears? Here are some of the symptoms:
- Pain in the shoulder particularly at the front part
- Pain that extends throughout your arm
- Difficulty in doing overhead activities such as lifting stuff above the head or reaching for something that is at a distance
- Weakness or numbness of arm
- Pain when you inadvertently sleep right on the affected side
At the onset of injury, rotator cuff tears are very palpable. You can hear this tell-tale snapping sound which will then be followed by a sudden searing pain before the arm goes limp.
Do rotator cuff tears heal on their own?
Yes and no would be the most apt answer to this question. Yes, the good news is rotator cuff tears heal over time. To manage the pain, you can take anti-inflammatory medication, pain relievers, and physical therapy. If you do this consistently, rotator cuff tear can heal on their own.
However, if the injury is serious, you cannot escape surgery. The same remains true for those whose jobs involve a lot of lifting and rotating of arms. Always remember that the more you use a damaged rotator cuff, the worse it will become. This is because a rotator cuff tear can grow bigger when there is repetitive use or you get injured on the same spot all over again.
Time to see the doctor
Sometimes, a simple shoulder strain masks the true condition which is rotator cuff tears. When then should a person bring this condition to his/her physician’s attention? The first thing is to ask your current doctor if he/she knows a trusted orthopedic surgeon. This way you can be properly diagnosed if indeed you are suffering from rotator cuff tears or not.
If you do experience any injury that you think has affected your rotator cuff tears, it is best to see the doctor immediately. Early detection and treatment will expedite the healing process. Also, the doctor can tell you whether you need surgery or not. Together, you can explore options to expedite the healing process after experiencing rotator cuff tears.
Time for surgery
There are two things to look into if you are mulling over going under the knife to repair the torn rotator cuff. The first is the duration. If the condition persists for a long period of time, it would be best to consult your doctor. The second is the intensity of the pain. Observe the affected part. If the pain can no longer be tolerated, it would be best to see your physician to explore your options.
This is where you should consult your orthopedic doctor. He/She would know the best way moving forward especially when there is blooming involved. Do not self-medicate. You might end up at a worse state than when you began with. Be guided by those who have come before you.
Physical therapy is arguably one of the best things you can do when there are rotator cuff tears. This is because rehabilitation plays a huge role in treating rotator cuff tears. Your orthopedic surgeon can give you a well-structured plan to achieve your weight goals and a healthy lifestyle.
There are three ways that surgery on rotator cuff tears can be done. These three include traditional open repair, mini-open repair, and arthroscopic repair. However, these three are for more serious cases. A smaller tear may only require a smoothing or trimming procedure. This is called debridement.
Rotator cuff tears, while common, may worsen without proper intervention. Early diagnosis will help you achieve the proper intervention for this condition. Just remember to consult a qualified health practitioner or a doctor before making any decision.