How to Settle a Rotator Cuff Injury
The rotator cuff is a collection of muscles that provide the shoulder joint with stability during rotation. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) states that rotator cuff injuries are one of the most common causes of shoulder pain, and the incidence of these injuries increases with age. The risk of injury is highest in certain athletes, such as swimmers, baseball pitchers and kayakers. Symptoms of a injury to the rotator cuff may include severe pain in the arm or shoulder, limited movement of the shoulder joint, weakness and pain in the shoulder that becomes worse at night. In most cases, surgery is not necessary, and rotator cuff injuries are treated with rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory medications.
Limit activities that cause pain or other symptoms. Avoidance of triggering activities provides symptom relief in as many as 50 percent of cases, according to the AAOS. In the other half of cases, medications, therapy, or surgery may be needed.
Apply ice to the affected shoulder joint several times a day for the first few days following injury. Wrap the ice in a towel or use an ice pack, and leave on the arm for no more than 20 minutes at a time to prevent ice burns.
Take over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, to alleviate pain. Ibuprofen, an anti-inflammatory, is especially beneficial when the rotator cuff is inflamed.
Visit your doctor for a complete medical examination and testing if your shoulder does not begin to feel better after one week. Imaging tests such as X-rays or MRIs may be needed to rule out a fracture, according to the Sports Injury Clinic.
Ask your doctor about steroid shots, which can be injected directly into the affected shoulder to reduce inflammation and relieve pain. The injections may provide rapid relief of pain.
Consider surgery to treat a rotator cuff injury that does not respond to other treatment methods or is associated with loss of function, limited motion or weakness. According to the AAOS, surgery effectively treats up to 95 percent of rotator cuff tears, but recovery may take as long as six months before shoulder function is fully restored.
Wear a sling following surgery to protect the rotator cuff while it heals. A sling may need to be worn for as long as six weeks, and use of the arm should be avoided during this time.
Attend physical therapy sessions to strengthen the shoulder and learn range-of-motion exercises that will encourage healing and help prevent future damage from occurring.