Shoulder injuries are increasingly common, and shoulder pain can make daily activities difficult. If you are suffering from shoulder pain, such as pain due to a rotator cuff injury, you are probably eager to find a solution. We will review the symptoms of a rotator cuff injury, discuss how most shoulder injuries occur, and explain how to treat a rotator cuff injury. A rotator cuff injury is damage to any of the four rotator cuff muscles and their tendons, fibrous bands that connect these muscles to the shoulder joint. The main types of rotator cuff injuries are tendinopathy, tendonitis, shoulder impingement syndrome and rotator cuff tear. Tendinopathy is damage to a tendon. Tendonitis is damage to a tendon that causes it to become inflamed. Shoulder impingement syndrome is pinching of the rotator cuff tendons that can cause inflammation of the tendons and shoulder bursa, a fluid-filled sac that reduces friction within the shoulder. A rotator cuff tear is a torn rotator cuff tendon. The type of rotator cuff injury you have will determine the type of treatment you need: rest, icing, pain medication, physical therapy, or, in the case of more severe injuries, therapeutic injections or surgery. A summary of these treatment steps is included below:
How do you treat a rotator cuff injury? Steps:
- Rest and ice: Avoid any activities that strain your shoulder. Wrap a cold pack or bag of ice or frozen food in a towel and hold it to your shoulder for 15 minutes. Repeat every 1 – 2 hours. Consider visiting a pain doctor immediately to assess the level of damage.
- Anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapy: NSAIDs, or anti-inflammatory pain relievers such as Motrin, Advil and Aleve, and physical therapy work to improve your shoulder pain, swelling and range of motion. A pain doctor can refer you to a physical therapist.
- Steroid injections: If the above treatments fail, steroid injections delivered by a specially trained pain medicine physician can reduce your shoulder pain and swelling, and enable you to participate in physical therapy.
- Platelet rich plasma: Pain medicine specialists inject your own blood platelets and growth factors into the damaged shoulder tissue to accelerate the natural healing process.
- Scapular nerve block: When other injections fail, pain medicine specialists use ultrasound and a local anesthetic medication to block your shoulder nerves from feeling pain.
- Surgery: If all other treatments fail, you may need orthopedic surgery for your rotator cuff injury. A pain medicine specialist can refer you to an orthopedic surgeon.
What Causes a Rotator Cuff Injury?
Rotator cuff tendinopathy, tendonitis and shoulder impingement syndrome occur due to overuse of the rotator cuff muscles in performing athletic or occupational overhead activities. These activities include any repetitive raising of the arms over your head, or reaching behind your body. Rotator cuff injury can occur due to something as simple as unloading the dishwasher, mopping floors, or unloading packages. Rotator cuff tears also occur due to falls on the shoulder and excessively forceful movements of the shoulder. Other risk factors for a rotator cuff injury may include smoking and obesity.
Which Treatments Do You Try First?
Many rotator cuff injuries heal on their own over a period of months. You may want to consider seeing a pain doctor to determine whether or not your rotator cuff injury will heal without assistance. Home remedies such as resting and icing your shoulder can reduce your pain and assist in the healing process. Over-the-counter pain medications such as Tylenol, and especially those with anti-inflammatory properties such as Motrin, Advil and Aleve, can also help to improve pain and swelling. During this time, it is especially important to avoid performing overhead activities. However, it is still necessary to keep gently moving your shoulder to prevent it from getting too stiff or frozen. You can do so by letting your arm hang loose, and swaying it slowly forward and backward, then side-to-side, and then rotating your arm around in small circles. Performing this simple exercise can help regain range of motion of the shoulder. However, if you experience any sharp pain during the exercise, stop immediately and make an appointment to see your doctor.
What Type of Doctor Can Help You if Home Remedies Fail?
If your shoulder pain does not improve with home remedies, you should consider visiting a pain specialist right away. In the case of chronic rotator cuff tendonitis or rotator cuff tear, it’s particularly important to seek out the advice of a pain doctor. A pain medicine specialist is a doctor who has specialized training in preventing, evaluating and treating pain conditions. If you are looking for a premier pain treatment clinic, that accepts most health insurance plans, check out Pain Treatment Specialists. Pain Treatment Specialists clinics are located in New York City, and in Clifton, Paramus and Wayne, New Jersey. They can assist in treating all kinds of chronic shoulder injuries, including frozen shoulder, a common complication of rotator cuff injuries. Pain Treatment Specialists are also affiliated with one of the best vein medicine clinics nationally, VIP Medical Group.
Why Visit a Pain Treatment Specialists Clinic in N.Y. or N.J.?
The pain doctors at Pain Treatment Specialists are Harvard-trained and board-certified with the American Board of Anesthesiology Pain Medicine. In addition to having the best training, Pain Treatment Specialists are compassionate with thoughtful bedside manner. Our skilled physicians are able to perform the most advanced pain medicine interventions available on the market. A pain doctor at Pain Treatment Specialists will work with you to accurately diagnose your rotator cuff injury with a physical examination and ultrasound or MRI imaging studies. They will explore further treatment options that are noninvasive and have long-lasting effects. Such treatments include physical therapy or injections of platelet rich plasma, cortisone, hyaluronic acid, or scapular nerve block. When at all possible, Pain Treatment Specialists will avoid treating with narcotic pain medications or surgery, but will refer you to an orthopedic surgeon if need be.