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Can a Rotator Cuff Injury Heal on Its Own?

Can a Rotator Cuff Injury Heal on Its Own?

When you sprain or tear your rotator cuff — a group of four muscles and tendons that form a “cuff” over your shoulder joint — the impact can range from a bothersome ache to searing, debilitating pain. 

It’s a common problem for the weekend warrior, the heavy-lifting laborer, or anyone who overuses or accidentally overextends their arm, particularly during overhead activities. 

The question is: Can a rotator cuff injury mend itself? 

Dr. Bryan King and Dr. Jeffrey Cuomo at Tuscaloosa Orthopedic & Joint Institute help people from all walks of life deal with rotator cuff tears and the resulting  shoulder pain and limited mobility. Here is their advice.

Understanding your rotator cuff

The rotator cuff is no ordinary grouping of muscles; it’s the unsung hero of many daily activities. It engulfs the shoulder’s ball joint and enables your arm to move in a versatile range of motion. But this unique positioning makes it particularly vulnerable.

The mechanics behind the muscle

Your rotator cuff oversees feats such as throwing a ball, reaching for a top shelf, or simply brushing your hair. However, the muscles tear when you strain the limits of the cuff’s flexibility and strength.

Identifying the warning signs

Injury signs are as varied as the activities that cause them, but persistent pain, particularly during the night, stiffness, and loss of motion or strength are early indicators of something amiss.

When to seek medical attention for a rotator cuff tear

We see many patients who have taken a wait-and-see approach after injuring their rotator cuff, hoping their shoulder will recover without any outside intervention. 

Unfortunately, rotator cuff tears do not heal on their own. Not to say that all rotator cuff tears require surgery, but they all need attention.

The risk of ignoring a rotator cuff tear

Delaying professional assessment can exacerbate your injury. A large tear can lead to “pseudoparalysis,” a loss of movement and signs that mimic a nerve injury, thus complicating the prognosis.

Early intervention in rotator cuff tears

Addressing the injury swiftly can be the difference between a manageable tear and the need for extensive repair. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can pinpoint the severity, helping us develop a personalized treatment plan.

Orthopedic insights and your rotator cuff recovery options

Dr. King and Dr. Cuomo have the experience, knowledge, skill, and an armory of repair techniques to restore your rotator cuff to its former glory.

Conservative treatments for rotator cuff tears

While rotator cuff tears won’t heal on their own, you may be able to live with a minor injury (partial tear) by managing the symptoms conservatively. 

For example, we may recommend a temporary arm sling and modified activities while your shoulder recovers from the trauma. 

Over-the-counter anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen can ease the swelling and pain. For more severe pain, we can offer steroid injections.

Physical therapy is critical in your rotator cuff recovery as you build up the supporting muscular structure. 

Surgery for rotator cuff tears

For some, surgery is inevitable, particularly when conservative measures haven’t helped. In most cases, we use arthroscopy, a minimally invasive surgical technique that allows us to assess and treat the shoulder with smaller incisions and a quicker recovery.

Personalized treatment

At Tuscaloosa Orthopedics & Joint Institute, we understand that athletes, carpenters, painters, and others who rely on their shoulders for their livelihood require a different post-operative plan than those who need to drive and dress themselves but don’t need to perform repetitive overhead activities.

Minimally invasive, maximally rewarding

Our minimally invasive procedures offer a less significant impact on your body, but their results are no less impactful. Reduced scarring, pain, and recovery times may surprise you if you’re familiar with the old ways of surgery.

Rotator cuff recovery

Recovery is a layer cake of time, exercises, and patience. Physical therapy plays a vital role, gradually guiding you through stretches and strengthening exercises to help prime your shoulder for everyday tasks.

In the arena of shoulders and their injuries, waiting to see if they heal on their own can sometimes be the enemy of progress. Timely intervention, patient compliance, and a personalized approach to healing are the trifecta that can lead to a successful recovery.

If you suspect a rotator cuff injury, don’t delay — call the experts at Tuscaloosa Orthopedic & Joint Institute in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, today to schedule an evaluation and start a personalized treatment.

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