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Has anyone had a damaged rotator cuff?
Old 08-29-2010, 01:05 PM   #1
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Has anyone had a damaged rotator cuff?

I diagnosed myself after listening to a sports talk call in show on the radio. While I do plan to go to the doctor when things slow down at w*rk, would welcome your "second opinions". This has been going on for over a year; no particular thing happened - just realized that I had pain in my right shoulder. No pain at all as long as arm stays to the side or in front of my body and isn't lifted any higher than shoulder height. Cannot raise my arm over my head any more nor can I reach behind my back due to knee-buckling pain. Can't sleep on my right side any longer, and that bites as I sleep best on my right side. Are there exercises I could do to cure this?
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Old 08-29-2010, 01:08 PM   #2
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Are you sure it's a rotator cuff tear and not chronic tendonitis or bursitis? What you are describing sounds like it could be one of those as well. Strengthening muscles could be part of the relief, but it would be best to be sure what you are dealing with first.
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Old 08-29-2010, 01:19 PM   #3
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I would not delay going to the Orthopedist . The longer you wait the harder it is to repair a rotator cuff . They usually do Physical Therapy first and they will probably give you a cortisone shot to help with the pain. This might be all you need but I would certaintly look into it .
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Old 08-29-2010, 01:23 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by bubba View Post
I diagnosed myself after listening to a sports talk call in show on the radio. While I do plan to go to the doctor when things slow down at w*rk, would welcome your "second opinions". This has been going on for over a year; no particular thing happened - just realized that I had pain in my right shoulder. No pain at all as long as arm stays to the side or in front of my body and isn't lifted any higher than shoulder height. Cannot raise my arm over my head any more nor can I reach behind my back due to knee-buckling pain. Can't sleep on my right side any longer, and that bites as I sleep best on my right side. Are there exercises I could do to cure this?
Some of that sound like what happened to me when I broke my collar bone. Any possibility it is a a broken or fractured collar bone?
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Old 08-29-2010, 01:28 PM   #5
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Thanks folks. Guess I should try to get in to see the doctor. I don't think anything is broken; probably just old and worn out.
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Old 08-29-2010, 05:25 PM   #6
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I went to an orthopod and he diagnosed a damaged rotator cuff and suggested surgery. I said no, I want to try physical therapy first. The physical therapist quickly realized that I had adhesive capsulitis and worked with me until it passed.

Frozen Shoulder (Adhesive Capsulitis) Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Diagnosis on MedicineNet.com

Sure glad I waited.
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Old 08-29-2010, 05:33 PM   #7
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Had arthroscopic surgery on my L shoulder - they stuck pins in the bone to get new attachment points. Was not fun, but neither was the time before when it would keep me awake. PT is good - builds up the surrounding muscles to give support to the joint. Two years later I have pretty much complete range of motion, very rare pain, and only occasional crunchy noises or sensations from that joint. Took about a year before it was something I was fairly unaware of.
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Old 08-29-2010, 05:36 PM   #8
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...they will probably give you a cortisone shot to help with the pain. This might be all you need...
I suffered from the same problem about ten years ago. The cortisone shot did it for me.
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Old 08-29-2010, 07:28 PM   #9
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Hi Bubba
I am new to the boards - registered about 3 months ago but have been too shy to introduce myself. However, I can't help but respond to your post. I had 2 rotator cuff surgeries 2 years ago. The first was due to a fall. I was teasing my daughter and was standing on one foot while poking her in the belly with the other. She grabbed my foot and swung it up causing my other foot to leave the ground and I fell on my right side. After several weeks of increasing pain and lack of ability to raise my arm I go for an MRI. It turned out I had a large chip from the top of my arm bone, severe bone bruising, a ruptured bursa and a total tear in my supraspinatus tendon. Surgery #1 was scheduled. Two weeks after surgery I was walking in the back yard with arm in my sling and stepped in a post hole my husband had failed to fill in when he moved the fence. Was still doing PT for first surgery and after a couple of months of continuing pain and no progress in being able to move my arm - back for another MRI. This time I had torn loose all the pins and sutures from first surgery, re-tore the supraspinatus and also complete tear of infraspinatus. Go in for surgery #2. These sugeries were 4 months apart.

The pain you are descibing sounds just like what I had - inability to raise arm, inability to sleep on my right side, pain all the time. A simple MRI will reveal the problem (x-rays do not show torn tendons). Delaying a repair of a shoulder can sometimes make the problem worse as the tendons continue to fray. I would urge that you go to your doctor and get checked out.

The surgery is not fun. There is a lot of pain afterwards and it was a good 6 months before I could begin sleeping on my right side. However, it is now 2 years later and I am completely back to normal. I do not regret (now) having the surgery - although the day after surgery I can't say I felt that way.

I hope this is not what your problem turns out to be, however, until you get it checked out you won't know for sure. Best of luck to you.
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Old 08-29-2010, 08:32 PM   #10
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My advice is definitely don't delay months going to Doc. I had similar symptoms and mine was impingement.... tendon squeezed in gap -> inflammation. Since it was my left shoulder I think it may have been simply caused by sleeping with my hand over my head (no athletic or traumatic injury as I am right handed) however I left it almost 6 months after the initial doc visit to get the referral to orthopedist. The orthopedist relieved the impingement with a single cortisone shot (since no bony growth problems) but adhesive capulitis caused by my reduced range of motion caused a much longer and more painful rehab (almost 1 year and still only about 70%).

This was the first case in my life where "just waiting until it fixed itself - and finally get around to going to Doc if it gets worse" was a very poor strategy.
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Old 08-29-2010, 09:09 PM   #11
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MRI of the shoulder is an excellent idea - they will be able to determine whether it is impingement, a tendinopathy, a tear (partial or complete - the latter needs surgery), or an adhesive capsulitis. I have had rotator cuff tears before (both shoulders) - never had a MRI -it was years ago and they did the cortisone shot and physiotherapy - can't say that either one helped, and it took about 9 months to a year to go away. I woke up one morning and it was gone, but I remember the pain waking me up at night, when I rolled over onto the shoulder.

There is a small outlet on top of the humeral head and it is for the most part surrounded by an arc of bone and the rotator cuf slides backwards and forwards through it as it contracts and relaxes - imagine if it is torn or swolled and tender.
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Old 08-29-2010, 09:42 PM   #12
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Also, just to add additional worry, frozen shoulder is something that happens a lot to diabetics and could be a symptom. If you don't have any of the other symptoms that's probably not it, but one more thing to consider.

I've had both problems, and in my experience a rotator cuff injury is pretty obvious. You do something, something pops or tears, it hurts like bloody hell, and keeps hurting for a long long time, through PT and and daily use. That's assuming there's no need for surgery.

Frozen shoulder sounds more like what you're experiencing. Still hurts a lot, but no obvious cause. Luckily, no surgery either. Just slow recovery and PT.

Good luck, and let us know what you find out.
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Old 08-29-2010, 10:18 PM   #13
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I've had it too. Surgery & lots of PT cured me & I'm stronger than ever now. The PT said it is really important to put the shoulder thru the range of motion one time a day to keep it from getting much worse. I'm with the donKt wait crowd. Find a good orthopedic surgeon who has lots of sports therapy experience. They know these problems the best and have good success.
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Old 08-29-2010, 10:32 PM   #14
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The tsunami in Thailand gave me my bragging rights to mine. I put off doctor but went within 2-3 weks. No surgery but an exercise called the 'empty beer can' strengthened up related muscles and in a few weeks all was good.
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Old 08-30-2010, 04:11 AM   #15
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This was the first case in my life where "just waiting until it fixed itself - and finally get around to going to Doc if it gets worse" was a very poor strategy.
Normally my strategy is waiting to see if a problem fixes itself, but your stories prove that's not always a good strategy. I'll have it seen about; sure dread a shot in the shoulder.
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Old 08-30-2010, 05:06 AM   #16
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I began having occasional mild pain in my upper right arm about a year ago. I ignored it until it got bad and involved the shoulder, especially specific twisting motions. I did not have an injury I could relate to this condition and feel it was caused by how I slept on my right side with my arm twisted underneath me, aggravated by how I was sitting at the computer at work. I went to see my PCP who diagnosed an impingement condition of the rotator cuff or tendinitis. She did not feel I had torn anything because I had quite a bit of strength in the arm. She immediately ordered a course of physical therapy. I went twice a week after work for 3 months. Each session was about 1.5 hours. Therapy ended in May and I am greatly improved....maybe 90 percent.
So go see your doc and see what's up. My PCP didn't want to do shots unless the therapy did not work but my pain was not excrutiating either, and I was onboard with the one thing at a time approach.

P.S. Oh, and I did have an X-ray prior to therapy that showed no bony abnormalities or fractures.
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Old 08-30-2010, 06:01 AM   #17
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Several years ago, I tried to dunk a basketball - with a good running start. The ball only came up to the front of the rim and my running momentum carried me forward yanking my arm back. The pain was tolerable, so I did not go to the doctor. Big mistake. Couldn't raise my arm without pain for quite a while. My chiropractor noticed 15 years later that my right shoulder is forward of my left one. Even now I have pain throwing a baseball/ softball, and have problems with pull-ups and overhead presses while working out.

Bubba - the first exercise I would do if I were you is to go to an orthopedic. He/she will best prescribe what is best for you.
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Old 08-30-2010, 07:52 AM   #18
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I had a minor rotator cuff issue, but went early to the orthopedist as it clearly was not getting better by itself. A few weeks of PT took care of it. There is still some minor "once in a while pain" but that's just an envelope I've learned not to push.

As in: "Doc, it hurts when I do this." "Then don't do that."

After reading the other's stories here, I sure was lucky!
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Old 08-30-2010, 08:05 AM   #19
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I thought I had a rotator cuff issue a few years ago, with both sides. A guy at work actually had this issue, and when I described my pains, he said that's probably what it was. Thankfully, when I went to the doctor for it, it turned out to just be tendonitis.

Wish I had found that out BEFORE the MRI, though. I did NOT like having to lay in that thing for 30 minutes, with it hovering mere millimeters from my nose, clicking and humming like some alien probe device. Oddly, less than a month after the MRI, the pain just went away on its own, and I got my full range of motion back.
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Old 08-30-2010, 09:33 AM   #20
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Normally my strategy is waiting to see if a problem fixes itself, but your stories prove that's not always a good strategy.
I've had aches and pains like this (often from sleeping in a bad position) but they've usually worked themselves out in a week. If I had something that wasn't going away or reducing in intensity after a couple of weeks, it's definitely time to have it examined.
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