How to Prevent Rotator Cuff Tears

How to Prevent Rotator Cuff Tears

Half of everyone over age 70 will tear their rotator cuff. While rotator cuff tears are most commonly caused by aging, they occur in younger people, too, with about 10% of people in their 50s experiencing tears. Fortunately, you can take steps to prevent the pain and disability caused by a rotator cuff problem.

At Silicon Valley Orthopaedics, our experienced team offers comprehensive care for a wide range of joint problems, and Dr. Masi Reynolds specializes in rotator cuff tears. He carefully reviews your symptoms and medical history and recommends the best possible treatments for your shoulder pain.

The basics of rotator cuff tears

In most rotator cuff tears, the tendon in the shoulder tears away so it no longer fully attaches to the bone. There are two types of tears:

Partial rotator cuff tear

The tendon is damaged but not completely detached from the bone in a partial or incomplete tear. Most torn tendons begin with fraying, and as the fraying progresses, the tendon can completely pull away from the bone.

Complete rotator cuff tear

A complete rotator cuff tear is as it sounds, with the tendon detaching entirely from the bone. Complete tears often result from lifting a heavy object when you have a partial tear, although they also result from degenerative changes caused by the natural aging process.

Exercise your shoulder to prevent rotator cuff injuries

Your shoulder has more range of motion than any other joint. The flexibility and range of movement rely on the small rotator cuff muscles and the larger muscles surrounding the shoulder joint. Exercises that strengthen and stretch this complicated gathering of muscles help prevent rotator cuff tears.

Dr. Masi recommends a shoulder exercise program that targets the chest, back of the shoulder, and shoulder blades. For example, you can try the doorway stretch:

Step One

Stand in an open doorway.

Step Two

Hold on to the sides of the doorway with each hand at or below shoulder height.

Step Three

While holding the sides of the doorway, lean forward until you feel the front of your shoulders gently stretch. Keep your back straight and shift weight onto your toes.

Avoid sleeping on your shoulder

Some sleeping positions stress your shoulder muscles, resulting in soreness and stiffness. If you frequently sleep on your side and add pressure to your rotator cuff, the strain can result in tearing. 

If you must sleep on your side, avoid stretching your arm overhead.

Reduce repetitive overhead activities

Overhead activity of all kinds lead to rotator cuff tears — painting walls and ceilings, lifting a heavy suitcase into the overhead bin on an airplane, reaching for items in cabinets, and any similar movements. If your work requires repetitive overhead movements, check with our physical therapist about how to alternate your motions to reduce your risk.

SVO has a physical therapist in-house to address your shoulder pain or rotator cuff prevention questions.

Treating rotator cuff tears with surgery

Dr. Masi uses advanced, minimally invasive and robot-assisted techniques whenever possible to perform rotator cuff repair surgery in our onsite surgery facility.

For minor to moderate rotator cuff tears, Dr. Masi uses the debridement process to trim damaged tissue areas in your shoulder. 

The tendon needs reattaching to the upper arm bone for more severe tears. In some cases, the injured tendon is too damaged and cannot be reattached, in which case Dr. Masi may substitute it with another tendon from your body or a donor. The grafted tendon connects your bone to the muscle, and new, healthy tendon tissue grows over time.

If your prevention methods for avoiding rotator cuff tears didn’t work, and you want to discuss possible treatment options, book an appointment online or over the phone with our experienced team at Silicon Valley Orthopaedics today.

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