Rotator Cuff Disorders (cont.)
IN THIS ARTICLE
Exams and Tests
If your symptoms and exam show that you may have a complete rotator cuff tear, you may have one or more of these tests to confirm the diagnosis:
Your age, job, and activity level are considered when your doctor is deciding about further testing. For example, if you are a competitive athlete or have a job that requires frequent overhead activity, you may need further testing sooner than a relatively inactive older adult. A more complete diagnosis is important if you are likely to continue activities that may further damage your shoulder.
Treatment of rotator cuff disorders should begin soon after an injury or soon after symptoms develop, to give you the best chance of restoring flexibility and strength to your shoulder. Without treatment, inflammation and tears can build up, causing pain, weakness, and loss of function.
Treatment depends on your symptoms, age, and activity level, and on whether your symptoms appear to be related to a rotator cuff injury.
Most rotator cuff disorders are treated without surgery. Your treatment may include:
If symptoms don't improve after a few months of nonsurgical treatment, you and your doctor may consider testing (such as X-rays or an MRI) to find out if you have a rotator cuff tear.
Or your doctor may give you a corticosteroid shot.
Surgery often is used to repair a torn rotator cuff in a healthy young person, because good results are more likely if there is little or no evidence of degeneration or impingement.
People who have advanced rotator cuff disorders and tendons that are tough, stringy (fibrous), and stiff usually respond less well to surgery. Surgery may successfully repair the tear, but it can't repair all the damage caused by age or degeneration.
But surgery may be considered if:
For more information, see Surgery.
What to think about
Recovery from a rotator cuff disorder varies with each person. Your physical therapy and home exercise program should continue until your shoulder is as strong and flexible as possible. Some treatments for rotator cuff disorders can last up to a year. Most people can return to their previous activities after several weeks of rehabilitation.
Experts have differing opinions about treating rotator cuff tears.
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