The muscles and tendons that surround and support the shoulder joint in order to reach overhead are called the rotator cuff. Injury to the rotator cuff leads to dull, persistent pain in the shoulder area as well as the neck and even down the arm towards the elbow. Sometimes the area experiences wear and tear with repetitive motions and the injury to the rotator cuff happens gradually over a period. Other times it is the result of a sudden injury like a fall or an intense strain when attempting to lift something heavy. Not all rotator cuff injuries are equal. It’s possible the shoulder pain in the area is simply tendonitis — inflammation or severe irritation in the tendons. A more extreme injury is a partial or full tear that separates the muscles from the bones. In these cases, an orthopedic surgeon may suggest arthroscopic rotator cuff repair as a correction.
What is Arthroscopic Rotator Cuff Repair?
In the case of a full tear from the bone, an orthopedic surgeon may perform arthroscopic rotator cuff repair. Using specialized instruments, the doctor is able to sew the muscles in the rotator cuff back to the shoulder bone. Using anchors and sutures, the surgeon reconnects the tissue in its original location. Remarkably, the surgery only requires a few small incisions around the area in order to be performed. Doctors use small digital cameras held inside the shoulder in order to operate with minimal invasion.
Arthroscopic rotator cuff repair does require general anesthesia prior to surgery. The procedure only takes one to two hours with the possibility of an overnight stay, depending on the pain. Medication is administered to help manage the pain while in recovery. The shoulder should be supported by a sling for four to six weeks post surgery, though full recovery can take up to six months. During this time, the patient should participate in physical therapy to help restore the muscles in the rotator cuff safely.
Sleep Disturbance and Arthroscopic Rotator Cuff Repair
It’s very common for people with rotator cuff tear to complain about disturbance in their sleep. The pain is easily triggered when sleeping on one’s side as well as by common, unconscious movements made while sleeping. This pain is so extreme, it often leads to waking.
In a controlled study, the majority of subjects experiencing sleep disturbance before going through arthroscopic rotator cuff repair found that their condition improved over a period of two years. However, those using narcotic medicine for pain relief still experienced sleep disturbance despite having the surgery. To experience long term sleep correction after arthroscopic rotator cuff repair, the patient must work on rehabilitating the area and alternative means of pain relief other than medication.
If you are suffering from shoulder pain possibly due to a torn rotator cuff, contact Dr. Stacie Grossfeld immediately. Dr. Grossfeld is a double board-certified orthopedic surgeon who routinely performs arthroscopic rotator cuff repair for people in the Kentuckiana area. Dr. Grossfeld can be reached at either of her two office locations in Louisville, Kentucky by calling 502-212-2663.