What to Do When the Pain from an Old Rotator Cuff Injury Won’t Go Away

Rotator cuff injuries are a common cause of shoulder pain among adults in the United States. Due to a sudden acute injury or degeneration, rotator cuff tears can be painful and debilitating, limiting the range of motion of your arm and affecting your quality of life. There are several options for treating rotator cuff injuries which have proven to be very effective. However, after a period of time, pain from an old rotator cuff injury may flare up again.

Most rotator cuff injuries are degenerative

The majority of rotator cuff injuries are degenerative, which is caused by the tendon wearing down over time. Degenerative tears occur naturally as we age but can also be exacerbated by repetitive shoulder motion when performing activities that constantly utilize the shoulder joint, such as:

  • Tennis
  • Rowing
  • Painting

Two types of tendon injuries

There are two main types of tendon injuries:

  • a partial tear, where the tendon is damaged but not completely severed
  • and a complete tear, also known as a full thickness tear, where the tendon becomes completely separated from the bone.

Click for three more facts you must know about rotator cuff tears.

It’s possible that a previously torn tendon may have never fully healed or degenerated more quickly because of the stress caused by the tear resulting in the same pain and limited mobility like you had when you injured your shoulder the first time.

If you are experiencing any of the below symptoms, it could signal that your old rotator cuff injury has become problematic:

  • Pain when lifting your arm over your head
  • Spasms when moving your arm
  • Pain when sleeping on the injured side
  • Cracking or popping sounds when moving your arm
  • Weakness or limited range of motion of your arm

There are several different treatment options for rotator cuff injuries and are dependent on the type of injury as well as your overall health, age, and activity level. Visiting an orthopedic specialist will help determine the best treatment option for you. 

Non-surgical Treatment Options

  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Shoulder stretches
  • Physical therapy
  • Steroid injections
  • OTC pain medication

Read More about Non-surgical Treatment Options

Non-surgical treatment options include rest, ice, shoulder stretches, and physical therapy, which can help alleviate pain by improving the flexibility, range of motion, and strength of the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint. After six to eight weeks of physical therapy, shoulder pain should be decreased and full range of motion mostly restored.

Other non-surgical treatment options are steroid injections and over-the-counter pain medication like Ibuprofen and Naproxen, which help reduce inflammation and alleviate pain. These are just temporary remedies, though, and not meant as long-term solutions. Be sure to speak with your orthopedic doctor if you continue to experience pain and limited range of motion.

Surgery is an option

Surgery is another mode of treatment for rotator cuff injuries and an orthopedic surgeon can talk to you about the benefits of surgery and if it’s right for you.

The objective of any type of treatment is to reduce or eliminate pain and restore full function of the shoulder. When determining the proper treatment for your shoulder pain, it’s essential to speak with an orthopedic specialist as the severity of the injury, your age, and your activity level will determine the best treatment option for you.

The important thing is to not delay seeking treatment if you are experiencing shoulder pain again from a previous rotator cuff injury. If the pain isn’t going away, gets worse, or you no longer have the full range of motion you used to, visit your orthopedic specialist as soon as possible.

Avoid Frozen Shoulder Syndrome

If left untreated, rotator cuff injuries can lead to permanent loss of shoulder mobility. And immobilizing your shoulder for too long could lead to “frozen shoulder” syndrome, which is when connective tissues surrounding the joint become thickened and tight making any movement difficult.

Don’t put up with the pain or not take it seriously. Continued use of your arm despite increasing pain, could cause the injury to get worse over time or become irreparable. Performing treatment early can prevent further damage and get you back to your normal routine quickly.

If you’re experiencing any shoulder pain, don’t delay, book an appointment now or call 941-792-1404.