Orthopedics & Sports Medicine blog

July 24, 2017

Shoulder Pain and Rotator Cuff Injury - Sauk Prairie Healthcare

Shoulder Pain and Rotator Cuff Injury — Sauk Prairie Healthcare

Dr. David Marcu: The shoulder is made up of the humerus bone, which is the arm bone, and it articulates with, or touches, the shoulder blade, also called the scapula. The part of the shoulder blade it touches is called the glenoid. So, in a sense, it's like a ball in a socket. The top of the arm bone is like a ball, and then part of the shoulder blade is like a socket, so they rotate on each other. What keeps the ball centered on the socket is called the rotator cuff, and that gives your shoulder strength and it stabilizes it. So, if you don't have those muscles, you can have pain and you can have weakness, and problems from there.

A rotator cuff can be injured in a lot of ways. Sometimes people don't know how they do it, they just come in with shoulder pain and they have a rotator cuff tear. That's pretty common.

It's usually people a little bit older, 50s or older. Other people can injure their rotator cuff with a dislocation. People sort of in their 40s, 50s and older, if they dislocate their shoulder, oftentimes the rotator cuff will tear. Other times, and very often, it's from a fall. People walking their dog and falling on the ice and landing on their shoulder, or just slipping and falling anywhere and doing that. I have a few patients who have fallen on ladders or on roofs and tried to catch themselves, and have torn that way. So those are those abrupt, dramatic injuries, and those are really satisfying to get to early because people do recover. They get a lot better. They're pretty disabled by that injury.

The more common are those people who don't know quite how they did it. They think there was an injury, but they're not sure. The cuff's a little bit degenerative to start with, it's not as healthy, so it's easier to injure, and then maybe they took a minor fall.

A lot of the degenerative wear and tear, soft tissue, things like rotator cuffs, are more in your late 40s to 50s to 60s, or older. True shoulder arthritis issues are usually older, usually over 60, over 70 years old, but we see it in young people and that's a difficult problem to figure out. But, we see it in people in their 40s and 50s.

So, if you come to the doctor with shoulder concerns, they will probably get X-rays. They will do a physical exam. They'll have you move your arms in certain directions. They'll have you... they'll test your strength with different maneuvers, which we can isolate different muscles around your shoulder and around your rotator cuff. They will see if your shoulder is unstable, if you have a history of dislocations. That can be tested in the clinic. The doctor will move your arm around. It's a pretty quick exam, actually, but it should be thorough. That and basic X-rays can give you a ton of information. So, it's often good to come in earlier rather than put up with the pain.

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