Your rotator cuff is comprised of four tendons connected to your shoulder muscles that keep the ball joint in your shoulder connected. These tendons and muscles facilitate movement so when you lift a glass to your mouth, brush your hair or turn the steering wheel of your car you should be celebrating the hardworking and underappreciated rotator cuff that allows you a full range of motion. Rotator cuff tears are one of the most common joint injuries diagnosed because normal movements can cause the condition. Take a look at the questions below to evaluate your risk of sustaining a rotator cuff tear in your lifetime.
- Does your job require you to perform repetitive arm movements like lifting, reaching, pulling or pushing?
- Do you maintain a regular exercise routine?
- Are you over 60 years old?
- Do you now or have you ever played sports professionally or for recreation?
- Have you sustained any injuries to your arm or shoulder?
- Have you ever been in a car accident?
- Do you lead a sedentary lifestyle?
- Do you smoke?
- Have you been diagnosed with high blood pressure, hypertension, diabetes or any other condition that could restrict blood flow?
If you’re like most people, you answered yes to at least one of the questions above, and if so, your shoulders are at risk for injury. Rotator cuff tears can come from a number of different factors covering a broad range of lifestyles and activity levels. Direct impact or trauma is one of the most obvious causes of the condition but did you know that many rotator cuff tears are virtually asymptomatic and progress with no sign of damage? Performing repetitive movements or sustaining repetitive strains can result in a rotator cuff tear so if you make a living lifting or moving moderate to heavy objects you are at high risk for this joint condition. Normal physical activity like regular exercise can also cause minor injuries that can eventually progress to a rotator cuff tear. If you’re over 60 years old, you’re more likely to be affected by rotator cuff tears as well. Almost 50% of patients over 60 show some signs of rotator cuff damage.
You may be thinking, I don’t lift heavy things or exercise, why should I be concerned about rotator cuff tears? Did you know that sedentary adults who perform little to no physical activity on a regular basis are at equal risk for rotator cuff tears? In fact, most of these patients don’t even experience shoulder pain but are shocked when an MRI finds damage in this vulnerable area. Rotator cuff tears are a degenerative condition which means natural light movements can wear away at your tendons over time. Some patients don’t begin to experience shoulder pain until the damage has progressed significantly.
So, how do you know if you have a problem in your rotator cuff? Pain is usually the indicator that sends most patients to the doctor for answers. Rotator cuff tear pain can be felt in the front or back of the shoulder and can radiate down as far as your upper arm or elbow. If you experience pain when raising your arms or rotating your shoulders, you should seek help immediately to avoid serious injury. Rotator cuff tear pain usually intensifies at night, so if your shoulder pain is worse when you lay down to go to sleep, you could have a tear. If you feel any weakness or limited motion, this could be another indicator of a problem and many patients also report clicking or popping noises when moving their arms.
There are two kinds of rotator cuff tears. There are partial tears which occur when the top tendon is frayed or damaged and complete tears where the tear goes all the way through the tendon causing it to separate from the muscle and bone. Traditional treatments for rotator cuff tears center around pain killers and anti-inflammatory medications to lessen symptoms. Patients with more serious cases are usually referred for physical therapy or invasive surgery that can require up to 2 months of painful recovery.
The bad news is, most everyone is at high risk for a rotator cuff tear but here’s some good news to give you some optimism about the health of your shoulders. Innovative stem cell treatments are now available for treatment of these serious joint injuries, and unlike traditional treatments, the healing properties of stem cell treatments work to repair and regenerate valuable shoulder tendons to reverse the condition. Stem cell treatment for rotator cuff tears is non-invasive and helps patients avoid debilitating recovery from surgery and medication dependency. Don’t wait until your rotator cuff injury progresses to critical levels. Contact a stem cell therapy specialist today to get started on repairing your valuable shoulder joints and maintain your range of motion.