The shoulder is an extremely complex part of the body. Like an elegant piece of machinery, the rotator cuff – a collection of muscles and tendons just above the shoulder joint – allows for a large range of physical motion. Consequently, our shoulders often bear the brunt of many of our daily activities.
Overuse or injury can cause the shoulder joint to become unstable, and lead to a variety of injuries. Shoulder pain, restricted movement and muscle weakness are common symptoms of a rotator cuff injury.
The Rotator Cuff
The shoulder joint is made up of the humerus (upper arm bone, from shoulder to elbow) and scapula (shoulder blade), which fit together like a ball and socket. The muscles and tendons of the rotator cuff are what allows the shoulder to perform as it does. Tears can occur due to an injury or trauma, or simply because the tendons wear out due to excessive use. Rotator cuff tears are one of the most common reasons why people experience chronic shoulder pain. If the tear is large enough, it can affect how well your shoulder can function.
Nonsurgical treatments for rotator cuff injuries may include rest, strengthening and stretching exercises, steroid injections, and pain medication. If these efforts do not relieve your pain, your doctor may recommend surgery.
During surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff tendon, your physician may remove loose fragments in the shoulder area or remove bone spurs – a procedure known as debridement – before reattaching the tendon to bone using suture anchors.
Patients may be given pain medication after the surgery, along with a sling or other device meant to immobilize the area for a period of time.
After surgery, one of the most popular questions asked of an orthopedic surgeon is “When can I drive again?” The answer you get may vary from surgeon to surgeon, who often will not want to risk re-injuring the shoulder should a patient recovering from rotator cuff repair get into an automobile accident.
In general, you’ll want to avoid driving a car for at least six to 12 weeks, or until your doctor has indicated you no longer need to wear a sling. Driving with one arm is unsafe, and the shoulder that underwent surgery shouldn’t be moved too far away from the body.
Finally, your doctor may encourage you to undergo physical therapy to strengthen the range of motion of the arm, elbow, wrist, and hand.
To learn more about rotator cuff repairs, and get answers to specific post-surgery questions you may have, call Orthopaedic Associates at (440) 892-1440 to request an appointment.