Common Shoulder Injuries: Rotator Cuff Tears vs. Shoulder Impingements

Common Shoulder Injuries: Rotator Cuff Tears vs. Shoulder Impingements, TPL Orthopedics and Sports MedicineDo you have pain in your shoulder that just won’t go away? It could be due to a rotator cuff tear or a shoulder impingement, two of the most common shoulder injuries. While they are both similar, there are some key differences between a rotator cuff tear and a shoulder impingement. In this blog post, we’ll explore what a rotator cuff tear and a shoulder impingement are, what causes them, and how they are treated. At the practice of Steven C. Thomas, MD and Gregory T. Bigler, MD. Our board certified surgeons specialize shoulder surgery in the Las Vegas area.

What is a Rotator Cuff Tear?

A rotator cuff tear is a common shoulder injury that occurs when the tendons in the shoulder become damaged or torn. This can happen due to repetitive motion, overuse, or a traumatic event. A rotator cuff tear can cause pain, weakness, and limited range of motion in the shoulder. If conservative treatments like rest, physical therapy, and medication do not improve symptoms, shoulder surgery may be recommended. An orthopedic surgeon is a specialist who can diagnose and treat rotator cuff tears using surgical techniques if necessary.

Symptoms and causes of a Rotator Cuff Tear

Symptoms of a rotator cuff tear may include pain, weakness, and limited range of motion in the affected shoulder. This can make it difficult to lift objects or even perform everyday tasks. The tear can be caused by repetitive overhead motions or sudden trauma, such as a fall or lifting a heavy object. If you experience these symptoms, it is important to see an orthopedic surgeon to diagnose the injury and determine the appropriate treatment plan. In some cases, shoulder surgery may be necessary to repair the tear.

Diagnosing a Rotator Cuff Tear

If you suspect you may have a rotator cuff tear, it is important to seek a professional diagnosis from an orthopedic surgeon. During the diagnostic process, your doctor will conduct a physical examination of your shoulder and may order imaging tests such as an MRI or ultrasound. These tests will help your doctor determine the severity of the tear and the best course of treatment. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to repair the tear. It is important to follow your doctor’s recommendations closely to ensure a successful recovery.

Treating a Rotator Cuff Tear

In most cases, non-surgical treatments are initially recommended for rotator cuff tears. These may include rest, physical therapy, and medication to manage pain and inflammation. However, if the tear is severe or doesn’t respond to conservative treatment, surgery may be necessary. During the procedure, the torn tendon is reattached to the bone with sutures or anchors. The type of surgery and recovery time can vary depending on the severity and location of the tear, as well as other individual factors. It’s important to consult with a medical professional to determine the best course of treatment for your specific case.

What is a Shoulder Impingement?

A shoulder impingement occurs when the tendons of the rotator cuff become irritated and inflamed as they pass through the narrow space between the shoulder bones. This can lead to pain, weakness, and limited range of motion in the shoulder. Causes of shoulder impingement can include overuse, repetitive overhead movements, and muscle imbalances. Diagnosis is typically made through a physical examination and imaging tests such as an MRI. Treatment options may include rest, physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medication, and in some cases, shoulder surgery.

Symptoms and causes of a Shoulder Impingement

A shoulder impingement occurs when the rotator cuff tendons or bursa become compressed and pinched between the bones of the shoulder. This can cause pain, weakness, and limited range of motion in the shoulder. Symptoms of a shoulder impingement include pain when reaching overhead, difficulty reaching behind the back, and pain that worsens at night. Causes of a shoulder impingement can include repetitive overhead activities, poor posture, and bone spurs. If left untreated, a shoulder impingement can lead to more serious shoulder injuries and may require shoulder surgery.

Diagnosing a Shoulder Impingement

Diagnosing a shoulder impingement typically involves a combination of a physical examination, medical history review, and imaging tests. During the physical examination, your healthcare provider will assess your range of motion and look for signs of tenderness, inflammation, or weakness in the shoulder. They may also perform specific maneuvers to reproduce symptoms or evaluate the impingement. Imaging tests such as X-rays, MRI, or ultrasound may be ordered to get a more detailed view of the shoulder joint. It is important to obtain an accurate diagnosis before proceeding with any treatment options, such as shoulder surgery.

Treating a Shoulder Impingement

The treatment options for a shoulder impingement depend on the severity of the injury. In mild cases, rest, ice, and physical therapy can be effective in reducing pain and inflammation. Pain medications and corticosteroid injections may also be recommended. However, if the impingement is severe or has caused significant damage to the rotator cuff or bursa, surgery may be necessary. The most common type of shoulder surgery for impingement is called arthroscopic surgery, which involves small incisions and the use of a camera to repair the damaged tissue. Your doctor will be able to determine the best course of treatment for your individual case.

Contact Board Certified Surgeons Dr. Bigler or Dr. Thomas at the Knee and Shoulder Institute in Las Vegas, NV to Schedule an Appointment:

If you would like to schedule an appointment or learn more about the Knee and Shoulder Institute procedures & treatments performed by Las Vegas, Nevada board-certified surgeons Steven C. Thomas, MD and Gregory T. Bigler, MD. Contact the office today click here.

Serving patients from and around greater Las Vegas, Lake Havasu, Bullhead City, Mesquite, Pahrump, Nevada

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