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Although rotator cuff tears can happen from a fall or another traumatic injury, most tears are degenerative, meaning they occur over time. Orthopedic surgeon and shoulder specialist, Dr. Paul Hovis, is a leading expert in arthroscopic rotator cuff repair surgery. As the Arizona Center for Hand Surgery’s only shoulder specialist, he sees patients from across the United States and around the world at the practice’s three locations in Phoenix, the Northwest Valley, and Mesa, Arizona. Whether you’d like an in-person or remote consultation, contact the Arizona Center for Hand Surgery today.
What is a rotator cuff tear?
Your rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that come together as tendons to keep your arm in its socket, and to help you lift and rotate your arm. When there’s a tear in one of the tendons, it can no longer attach to the head of humerus, or upper arm bone. If left untreated, a torn tendon can fray over time, causing the tear to deepen.
While lifting a heavy object or suffering a traumatic fall can cause an acute rotator cuff tear, most tears are a result of the degenerative wear and tear that comes with aging. That’s why these injuries are most commonly seen in patients older than 40.
What are the symptoms of a rotator cuff tear?
Degenerative rotator cuff tears tend to be most painful when you’re trying to lift or lower your arm. Although this movement-specific pain is a tell-tale sign of a tear, there are other common symptoms, including:
- Dull aching pain deep in the shoulder joint
- Weakness in your arm, especially when lifting
- Disturbed sleep, especially when lying on the affected shoulder
- Crackling sensation during shoulder movement
Tears that happen suddenly, such as those resulting from a fall, typically cause intense pain that may be accompanied by a snapping sensation in your shoulder, and immediate weakness in your upper arm.
When is surgery necessary?
Although nonsurgical treatments (including rest, steroid injections, anti-inflammatory medications, and physical therapy) can be beneficial for minor rotator cuff tears, major tears or tears that don’t improve with nonsurgical treatments may require surgery. Having continued pain is a major indicator for surgery recommendation; other signs that surgery may be the best option for you include:
- Your tear was caused by a recent, acute injury
- Your symptoms have lasted 6-12 months
- You’re an athlete or you’re very active at work, and your arm isn’t functioning properly
- You have significant weakening or loss of function in your shoulder joint
- You have a large tear (greater than 3 centimeters)
What is arthroscopic rotator cuff repair surgery?
Dr. Hovis performs arthroscopic rotator cuff repair surgery by inserting a tiny camera, called an arthroscope, through a small incision in your shoulder joint. The images from the camera are displayed on a monitor, which Dr. Hovis uses to guide his instruments.
Arthroscopic rotator cuff repair is the least invasive method for repairing a torn rotator cuff and is typically performed on an outpatient basis. This type of surgery offers the benefit of faster recovery, minimal scarring, and greatly reduced risk of infection and stiffness.
Contact the Arizona Center for Hand to Shoulder Surgery to schedule an in-person or remote consultation with Dr. Hovis today.
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tel: (602) 258-4788
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