Rotator Cuff Tear

New England Stem Cell Institute

Stem Cell Clinic & Regenerative Medicine located in Glastonbury, CT

Your shoulder is a complex joint constantly at risk of pain and injury like a rotator cuff tear, which can be painful and debilitating. At New England Stem Cell Institute, Paul Tortland, DO, and Jeffrey LaVallee, MD, specialize in the diagnosis and management of rotator cuff tears and offers innovative treatments to speed up your body’s natural healing powers. To schedule an evaluation, call the office in Glastonbury, Connecticut, or request an appointment online today.

Rotator Cuff Tear Q & A

Rotator Cuff Injuries  

Rotator cuff problems are frequent and concerning injury in orthopedic, sports medicine, and musculoskeletal medicine practices.  Patients often express apprehension about possibly having a rotator cuff problem, such as, “I hope my shoulder pain isn’t due to a rotator cuff problem.” 

What is the Rotator Cuff? 

The Rotator Cuff is a group of 4 muscles and their tendons that help support and stabilize the shoulder joint socket.  Each of the muscles attaches to the scapula (the shoulder blade), and the tendons reach around and grab the ball of the shoulder to help hold it in the socket during movement.  Sometimes these are referred to as the “SITS” muscles, referring to their names: Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus, Teres minor, Subscapularis. 

The main purpose of the Rotator Cuff is NOT to rotate the shoulder.  Rather, it’s to stabilize the shoulder joint. 

What kind of damage can occur to the Rotator Cuff? 

The tendons and muscles of the Rotator Cuff can succumb to the same types of injuries as any other muscle or tendon, including sprains & strains, tendinitis, and tears. 

What is a Rotator Cuff tear? 

As the name implies, a Rotator Cuff tear is a tear in one or more of the tendons of the cuff.  These can be very small tears within the body of the tendon (known as an “interstitial” tear), or they can be massive complete tears of the tendon, and everything in between.  Rotator cuff tears are very common, affecting as many as 2 million people in the United States every year. 

How do Rotator Cuff injuries occur? 

The Rotator Cuff can be injured by repetitive overuse, by progressive stress over time (such as improper weight training), or by an acute sudden injury such as falling on the shoulder, trying to lift something too heavy, pulling too hard to start a lawnmower, and so on.  The Rotator cuff is also vulnerable to degenerative changes that come with aging. These changes can lead to a tear. 

What are the symptoms of Rotator Cuff injury? 

Shoulder pain while at rest is one of the most common symptoms of a rotator cuff injury. You can also experience:

  •   Pain when lifting your arm
  •   Pain when lying on the affected shoulder
  •   A crackling sound when you move your arm
  •   Muscle weakness during movement
  •   Pain radiating to the outside of the upper arm, the upper back, the neck, or down the forearm also are commonly associated symptoms of Rotator Cuff injury 

During an acute (sudden) injury, you could experience a snapping sensation as the rotator cuff tears followed by severe pain and/or sudden weakness. Rotator cuff tears that develop slowly due to degeneration usually cause a dull ache and muscle weakness. 

How are Rotator Cuff injuries and tears diagnosed? 

When you come to the office with concerns about shoulder pain, the team at the New England Stem Cell Institute does a thorough exam to identify the underlying cause of your discomfort. Your exam can include a review of your symptoms and medical history and a physical exam. 

To help confirm whether your shoulder symptoms are due to a Rotator cuff injury, a diagnostic ultrasound will also be performed as part of the exam.  Ultrasound is an excellent way to visualize the muscles and tendons of the Cuff.

If there is still any doubt about whether a Cuff tear is present, an MRI may be ordered. 

How are Rotator Cuff injuries treated? 

Treatment of your Rotator cuff injury will depend on the nature & severity of the injury, symptoms, and cause of your injury. For tendinitis and mild or small tears, your treatment can include:

  •   Rest and ice
  •   Anti-inflammatory medication
  •   Changes in activity
  •   Physical therapy
  •   EWST (extracorporeal shock wave treatment)
  •   Therapeutic home ultrasound 

If conservative methods fail to improve your tendinitis or mild Rotator cuff tear, then the team at the New England Stem Cell Institute may recommend regenerative medicine treatments such as platelet-rich plasma (PRP), which when injected into your damaged Cuff can help accelerate the natural healing process.

For larger Cuff tears, fat-derived stem cell treatment is often indicated for those persons wishing to avoid surgery.  As noted elsewhere, fat can be an excellent source of stem cells from your own body. Unlike PRP and bone marrow-derived stem cells, fat has the advantage of being almost like putty or filler that can fill in larger Cuff tears.  This keeps the healing cells in place so they augment tissue repair. Using a gentle, minimally invasive liposuction technique, we take a small amount of fat from the “love handles” and process it to release the stem cells and other regenerative healing cells.  The processed fat is then injected into the tear under ultrasound guidance.

For a massive complete tear, surgery may be required.  But in some cases of complete Cuff tears, even surgery isn’t possible to repair them.

For expert management of your rotator cuff injury by a compassionate team of experts, call the New England Stem Cell Institute or request an appointment online today.