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Rotator Cuff Injury

Intro

When to call the doctor

  • In some cases, shoulder pain can be a symptom of other illnesses such as a heart condition. Pain from a rotator cuff problem is worsened with movement. If you have unexplained shoulder pain   that is not affected by movement, you should call the doctor.
  • If shoulder pain lasts more than two days
  • If shoulder problems (pain) do not allow you to work
  • If you are unable to reach overhead to get an item in a cabinet above shoulder level, for example
  • If you are unable to play a certain sport such as baseball or engage in an activity such as swimming

When to go to the hospital

For any acute injury in which you are unable to move the injured shoulder as well as the uninjured shoulder, seek emergency medical care.

Self-Care at Home
  • Rest the injured shoulder.
  • Apply ice for 15-20-minute periods at least three times a day for the first two days after the injury. A helpful hint for applying ice to the shoulder would be to use a large Ace bandage to wrap over the top of the ice on the shoulder. The wrap can be taken around the injured arm and across the body.
  • Apply heat after two days of applying ice. Warmth may be helpful. You can lay a heating pad over the shoulder while sitting up.
  • Take an antiinflammatory medication such as ibuprofen or naproxen sodium to decrease the pain   and swelling. Do not take if you have an allergy   to it or certain other medical concerns, such as stomach or kidney   problems.
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Follow-up
  • An orthopedic surgeon (bone doctor) can evaluate further pain or problems and possible need for surgery.
  • For both routine care and after surgery, work with a physical therapist. Your doctor can refer you.
Prevention
  • Avoiding a direct landing on the shoulder in sports or falls is the surest prevention but may be easier said than done.
  • Seek early medical attention if shoulder pain develops because of overuse.
Outlook
  • Treatment without surgery is reported to have a success rate of 40% - 90%, depending on the age of the person and the extent of the injury.
  • Older people have a much longer time to complete recovery.
  • Those having surgical repair have a high rate of recovery. One study found 94% of the people were satisfied after surgery with lasting relief of pain and improved function.
  • When the rotator cuff tear is very large, the results even with surgery may be poor. Fortunately, only a small percentage of people have such tears.

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