Who Needs Rotator Cuff Surgery?

Take a minute to marvel at everything your shoulders enable you to do — from pulling open a door to scratching your own back. In fact, it would be no great exaggeration to say that life would be incredibly limited without your shoulders. So, when you injure your rotator cuff, you not only have to deal with pain and discomfort, but significant functional limitations, as well.

At Joint Preservation Institute of Iowa, under the expert direction of Dr. Richard Goding, we specialize in the myriad joint problems that can affect how you move and live. When it comes to rotator cuff injuries, our goal is to help you wave goodbye to the pain and limitations. Sometimes the best way to accomplish this is through rotator cuff surgery.

Understanding your rotator cuff

Your shoulder is a shallow ball-and-socket joint that’s somewhat unstable by design, but this instability is what provides your arm with such a wide range of motion. What stability your shoulder does enjoy is powered by your rotator cuff, which is a band of four muscles that come together as tendons, attaching your humerus to your scapula.

Not only does your rotator cuff keep your upper arm bone firmly in the socket, it allows you to lift and rotate your arm.

Rotator cuff injuries

Now that we have a better understanding of the role your rotator cuff plays in your shoulder joint, let’s take a look at how this band of connective tissue can be damaged.

In most cases, rotator cuff injuries develop for one of two reasons: 1) an acute injury that causes the tissue to tear or 2) repetitive stresses that leave your rotator cuff weakened, inflamed, and more prone to tearing.

When surgery is the best course of action

When we diagnose the extent of the injury using advanced diagnostic imaging, our goal is to assess the extent of the damage. 

If your tear is only partial, we may turn to anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, and rest to restore pain-free function to your shoulder. 

If, however, we find a full-thickness tear in your rotator cuff, we can recommend nonsurgical treatments that may relieve the pain, but they won’t restore function, as these types of tears generally don’t heal on their own.

Ultimately, the decision to have rotator cuff surgery is yours to make, and we recommend that you base it on your unique needs and goals. For example, if you have a partial tear and you don’t rely on your shoulders too much, a conservative treatment course may be the right call. If, however, this approach doesn’t remedy your pain after six months or so, we might need to take a second look at surgery.

On the other hand, if your rotator cuff is torn completely, or you rely on your shoulders heavily (think painters or tennis players), you may want to skip conservative treatments and go straight for a surgical repair for your best chances of regaining full use.

We offer several different types of rotator cuff surgery using minimally invasive techniques whenever possible. In some cases, a simple debridement of the joint may solve your problem, while other cases require that we perform a full repair of the rotator cuff.

If you’d like to explore whether rotator cuff surgery is right for you, please contact one of our two offices in West Des Moines or Corydon, Iowa, to set up a consultation.

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