From an interview with
Dr. Zachary DiPaolo
Your rotator cuff – a group of 4 muscles and tendons surrounding the shoulder joint – is essential to enabling you to move through a normal range of motion, lift items and handle items above your head. A torn rotator cuff hampers your life.
“The rotator cuff tears, more or less, in one of two ways,” says McLeod Orthopedic Specialist Dr. Zachary DiPaolo. “Number one would be a traumatic injury where the patient trips and falls. They reach out to catch themself on a railing. Their arm gets jerked, and they feel a tear in their shoulder. The other way the rotator cuff tears is it simply just wears out over time — an injury of aging.”
AVOIDING ROTATOR CUFF INJURY
“I think being active in general is helpful, specifically, incorporating stretching and strengthening shoulder exercises in your routine. A lot of people do hard manual labor or work, or just the weekend warrior fixing up their yard. They think they can do more because they used to be able to do it. But their body was not ready for it, and they overdo it. And that’s how they will hurt you the shoulder.”
SPOTTING THE PROBLEM
“Patients can notice pain in the shoulder that kind of radiates down the side of their arm,” says Dr. DiPaolo. “ They might think that the pain is coming from their neck or shooting down their elbow. Many times, rotator cuff pain starts in the shoulder, radiate down the arm and notice weakness. Pain without weakness is not as concerning. But pain with weakness — when you can’t lift your arm over your head or get the milk out of the fridge — that’s more concerning for a rotator cuff tear.”
“As long as the patient is relatively healthy overall and they don’t have much arthritis in their shoulder, then certainly the rotator cuff deserves to be fixed, says Dr. DiPaolo. “It’s outpatient surgery. Patients can come in and go home the same day. We put them to sleep for surgery. It takes about an hour and a half. Most of the surgery is performed through three or four small incisions about a centimeter in length. I place my instruments through those portals and watch what I do on a TV screen.
They patient wears a shoulder sling for about six weeks afterwards, and the overall recovery is about four-and-a-half to five months.
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