ASK THE ORTHOPAEDIC SPORTS MEDICINE EXPERT
What to know about rotator cuff impingement
David M. Dare, M.D.
Question: I’m not sure what I did, but I started to have shoulder pain about three weeks ago after playing more tennis than normal while away on vacation. It hurts when I raise my arm and at night when I sleep. What should I do?
Answer: The most common cause of shoulder pain in this scenario is rotator cuff impingement. It is common, especially in athletes who do a great deal of repetitive overhead motion. This results in contact of the acromion (bone on the top of the shoulder) with the top side of the rotator cuff. It often results in sudden pain with reaching movements, pain with overhead motion, and can morph into night pain and weakness.
Early recognition and treatment is important. If left unchecked, over time, it can result in the development of a rotator cuff tear. The diagnosis can typically be made by a surgeon’s exam and x-rays of the shoulder.
Most cases can be treated without surgery by an ample amount of rest, anti-inflammatories and physical therapy. A steroid (cortisone) injection can be helpful as well. Occasionally, arthroscopic (minimally invasive) surgery is required to perform an acromioplasty, which shaves the bone to allow more room for the rotator cuff to move free of impingement.
Dr. David Dare received his undergraduate degree from Boston College, his medical school degree from University of Virginia, his orthopaedic training at the Hospital for Special Surgery, and he spent an extra year of training while completing a fellowship in sports medicine at the #1 ranked Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. Read more about Dr. Dare and his role as an orthopedic shoulder surgeon.
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