If you have been involved in an accident and your shoulder and arm are now throbbing, you might have a rotator cuff injury. Any powerful, thrusting movement, such as falling forward onto your outstretched hand, could cause a rotator cuff tear.
The rotator cuff, which is a bundle of muscles and tendons, is responsible for keeping your arm secured in your shoulder socket. When it is damaged, you’ll feel pain, especially when you lift your arm or when you pick up a heavy object. You should seek medical attention if you suspect your rotator cuff is damaged, especially if your arm feels weak or if you can’t lift your arm.
Symptoms of a Rotator Cuff Injury
Common symptoms of an acute rotator cuff injury include:
- feeling as if something in your shoulder has torn, accompanied by severe arm pain;
- inability to move your shoulder through its full range of motion;
- tenderness in the area where you felt something tear;
- weakness in your shoulder; and
- inability to raise your arm without assistance (severe cases).
Your doctor will assess the range of motion in your arm and perhaps order tests, such as an X-ray, MRI or ultrasound to rule out a fracture or other malady in your rotator cuff injury diagnosis.
Treatment for a Rotator Cuff Injury
Depending on the severity of your rotator cuff injury, treatment may include any of the following:
- Ice packs – to ease the pain and swelling.
- Pain medication – non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs (aspirin, Motrin or Tylenol).
- An arm sling – to help you rest your arm during the day at work or school (you can remove it at night).
- Corticosteroid injections – steroids for severe pain and inflammation.
- Surgery – open or arthroscopic to repair a large tear and possibly remove calcium deposits.
- Arthroplasty – partial or complete shoulder replacement.
- Rehabilitation therapy – motion and strengthening exercises.
The healing period for your rotator cuff injury could last from a few weeks to a few months, depending on the severity of the injury.