As temperatures drop, the cold air causes muscles to become stiff and tight, increasing the risk of aches, pains, and injury. Cold weather can often lead to shoulder pain and increase your risk for rotator cuff tears. There are a variety of risk factors for shoulder injuries during this chilly season, so we've outlined everything you need to know about winter rotator cuff tears.
What Are Rotator Cuff Tears?
A rotator cuff tear is an injury to one or more tendons in the shoulder that can be caused by trauma or overuse. The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles and their tendons that connect the upper arm bone to the shoulder blade and enable the arm to move in various directions. Tears can range from partial tears, to complete tears, to massive tears involving multiple tendons. Small, partial tears do not require treatment, whereas larger tears are more serious since the tendon has been completely torn away from the bone.
Rotator cuff tear symptoms can include:
- Arm pain during ordinary daily activities like reaching for something above your head or lying in certain positions.
- Pain and arm weakness while trying to lift something heavy.
- A loss of range of motion in your shoulder joint.
A rotator cuff injury can not only cause pain but can also leave you excluded from activities you once enjoyed. That's why it is important to see a specialist as soon as you experience pain or other bothersome symptoms in your shoulder joint.
How Do Rotator Cuff Tears Happen?
Rotator cuff tears can happen suddenly from an injury or over time due to wear and tear (a degenerative tear). They can be more prevalent in the winter months as the chilly weather can make your body more prone to injury.
During the winter months, people often spend more time indoors, meaning they may be more likely to do activities that involve repetitive overhead motions or other stress factors. The colder weather can also make it difficult to warm up properly before engaging in strenuous activities or exercise, leaving you more prone to rotator cuff tears. Additionally, the cold air and dryness of some heated indoor environments can put extra strain on the shoulder muscles and increase the risk of injury.
Other common causes of rotator cuff tears are:
- Repetitive overhead motions, like when playing tennis, throwing a ball, or lifting weights.
- Direct contact or trauma to the shoulder, such as falling on an outstretched arm.
- Degenerative changes due to aging weaken the tendons.
- Other medical conditions such as arthritis.
Tears may be classified based on their size. The different types of rotator cuff tears include:
- Partial thickness tears are shallow injuries involving only a portion of the tendon.
- Full thickness tears involve damage to all layers of a tendon.
- Massive tears involve tears of multiple rotator cuff tendons.
Most rotator cuff tears don't heal on their own, so it is best to seek medical advice if you experience any torn rotator cuff symptoms. Early diagnosis and treatment are key in helping prevent further injury or long-term damage, so reach out to Dr. Brian Kelly MD for an evaluation promptly.
How Are Rotator Cuff Tears Treated?
Upon a rotator cuff tear diagnosis, your doctor will likely recommend rest, application of ice to reduce swelling and pain, and anti-inflammatory medications to reduce inflammation in the shoulder joint. Physical therapy is another common treatment for rotator cuff tears, which aims to strengthen the shoulder muscles and tendons and improve the range of motion. Depending on the severity of the tear, more invasive procedures such as surgically repairing the torn tendon or tendons using arthroscopy (minimally invasive surgery).
Many people with rotator cuff tears also experience chronic shoulder pain, which can be managed by speaking with a healthcare professional and identifying options such as lifestyle changes and alternative treatments that can help reduce pain levels. Additionally, taking steps to prevent further damage to the shoulder joint, such as using proper form while participating in sports activities, can help lessen the risk of developing rotator cuff problems.
At the offices of Dr. Brian Kelly MD, we provide a variety of surgical options for shoulder repair, such as arthroscopic rotator cuff repair surgery. Rotator cuff repair is a surgery to repair an injured or torn rotator cuff, which is performed arthroscopically on an outpatient basis. An arthroscope allows your doctor to look for any damage, assess the type of injury, and repair it.
Rotator cuff tears are a common and painful injury that can arise during the winter months. During the winter, we already feel like we have to sit out of some of our favorite outdoor activities. Don't let shoulder pain keep you from doing even more. If you are experiencing symptoms of a torn rotator cuff, don't hesitate to seek treatment from the experts at Brian Kelly MD. Dr. Kelly will assess your condition and create a unique treatment plan to keep you living pain-free
Dr. Brian Kelly, MD. is an orthopaedic surgeon and sports medicine doctor experienced in treating a variety of injuries. Dr. Kelly and his expert team of physicians will make sure that you get the treatment you need to get back in the game. If you have sustained a sports injury, schedule an appointment at the offices of Dr. Brian Kelly today.