Chronic Pain After Rotator Cuff Injury

What Kind Of Pain Is Felt With A Torn Rotator Cuff?

When a rotator cuff tear happens suddenly, such as from a blow on the shoulder or a fall, you will immediately experience intense pain and arm weakness.

If the tear is due to repetitive motions, the pain will be minimal at first. It is usually relieved with rest and pain medications. Over time, you may feel a deep, dull ache, some stiffness, swelling, and tenderness.

You may also experience a locking or popping sensation on the shoulder. Some activities such as combing your hair and reaching for your back will become difficult. In severe cases, the arm may feel considerably weak, and sleeping at night may become a problem.

Some individuals do not experience pain from a rotator cuff tear. However, they may complain of shoulder weakness, some discomfort, and difficulty moving the arm.

How Much Pain Is Normal And How Long Should This Last?

If you cannot perform daily tasks such as bathing, dressing, lifting, and reaching overhead because of pain, you will need to see your doctor right away. It should also concern you if the pain persists even after resting and taking pain medications and if it disturbs your sleep at night.

Getting a proper diagnosis and treatment will help you recover fully in the least amount of time. You should be able to use your shoulder pain-free and without any restrictions after about 4 to 6 weeks of treatment and physical therapy for mild cases.

A mild to moderate rotator cuff tear could become severe if treatment is not given and if risky activities are continued. A severe tear can take several months and up to 18 months before you can use your shoulder normally.

Why Does The Rotator Cuff Hurt More At Night?

Reasons for shoulder pain at night are still not fully understood. If you are lying on the side of the injured shoulder, the added pressure might be the reason for the pain.

Meanwhile, if you are lying on your back, the pain might be due to the natural inward position of the shoulder, which restricts the blood flow to the shoulder.

Also, sleeping places the shoulder in a prolonged position that could worsen the swelling due to restricted blood flow.

What Is The Best Form Of Pain Relief For A Torn Rotator Cuff?

Taking over-the-counter pain medications will only offer temporary relief for shoulder pain. It is always best to consult your doctor to help you get the right treatment for your case.

You may be required to wear a sling to help your shoulder rest and to avoid lifting and overhead activities. Aside from home remedies that include rest, pain medications, and icing the affected shoulder, physical therapy can help to manage the swelling, prevent shoulder stiffness, and gradually regain shoulder muscle strength.  

How Long Does It Take For A Torn Rotator Cuff To Heal Without Surgery?

There is currently no evidence that suggests that surgery is the best mode of treatment for rotator cuff tears, even for severe tears. Therefore, conservative management consisting of rest, pain medications, and physical therapy are typically recommended first.

Healing depends on a variety of factors such as the severity of the tear, mechanism of injury, and the age and overall health of the patient. A mild to moderate tear will heal within 4 to 6 weeks to a few months. A severe tear can take about 4 to 6 months to heal or even longer depending on your response to physical therapy.

What If A Torn Rotator Cuff Does Not Fully Heal On Its Own?

You will need to undergo surgery if the conservative treatment is ineffective. Surgery is usually recommended for individuals who have experienced symptoms for 6 to 12 months, for those who have significant shoulder muscle weakness, and for those who have experienced a severe injury (such as those caused by serious accidents).

During surgery, the torn tendon is reattached to the shoulder bone. Your doctor will discuss with you the best surgical treatment based on your condition before proceeding with the surgery.

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