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OT- Torn rotator cuff- any words of wisdom?

Conrad Hoffman

May 10, 2009
Canandaigua, NY, USA
I think I've got a torn rotator cuff on my right shoulder. Trying to get a appointment with the doc. I know it's a popular machinist injury due to the location of controls on the mill and down feed on the grinder. It's bad enough I don't think I can shift my car and sleep is, no pun intended, a nightmare. A machinist friend had surgery for it and the recovery seemed to take forever. Any words of wisdom?
Sorry to hear this Conrad. I thought I had done the same, but discovered I had an impingement, which led to a frozen shoulder. Didn't require surgery, but took 9 months of physical therapy to resolve.

Good luck!
Don't overthink it until you get an MRI. Both my shoulders have had tendon issues. Very painful, but a month or two of physical therapy and continued stretching, and I'm all good now. Hopefully that's all it is.
I went to see a Dr due to severe pain in my right shoulder as well about 7-8 yrs ago. Severe pain came up early on Sat after doing hundreds of pushups over a couple previous days of a "boot camp" class I was in. I believe I just overdid it, my fault.

After advil over Sat & Sun pain was mostly subsided by the time I had my appt a few days later. Dr diagnosed (in office) as rotator cuff injury, but wanted an MRI to be certain and to be able to diagnose how bad the injury was. Of course insurance had to approve MRI, and they denied it. Telling me to go to phys therapy for 6-8 weeks, then re-evaluate.

PT helped, but the issue has always dogged me since. Not bad enough to consider surgery, that is about all that can be done for it other than PT, exercise, & stretching. It has never been bad enough for me that I'd consider surgery.

I have had 3 broken collarbones as an adult (I was a MC racer in a former lifetime) and my shoulders since then are not aligned well. My right shoulder sits about 2 inches lower than the other while standing upright. I believe that is the root cause of my issue. What really has helped was stretching and weight lifting. Don't overdue it. But after awhile it did improve. Most recently, in a group exercise class, all these years later, I discovered certain arm exercises w/ 3 lb weights made a big improvement in strength & flexibility. After some time I started using 5# weights, then 7.5#. A very noticeable improvement all of a sudden all these years later.

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What ever you do get at least a second and possibly third opinion. About 3 years ago I thought I tore my left rotator cuff just throwing a dog toy. I went to the local clinic and had X-rays done. They also wanted an MRI. I tried that a couple times with no success. I’m not that big but their machine was so tight on my shoulders I couldn’t finish the procedure.

I just lived with it until this fall. I finally went to Mayo Clinic. for back problems. They have what they refer to as “open” machines. They’re larger than those locally but nut exactly what I would call “open”.

They found the rotator cuff was not just torn but in two pieces. They also found I detached one of the bicep muscles and had significant arthritis in the joint. The conditions were such that they didn’t think I should be able to lift my arm above my shoulder. Much to their surprise I could still raise my arm. It isn’t easy and certainly isn’t pain free but it can be done

With all the information they now have the recommendation is a full shoulder replacement. I’m holding off on any decision about the shoulder until the issues with my back are addressed. Hopefully within a couple weeks they’ll do a nerve ablation to eliminate that issue. Once that’s addressed we’ll consider what to do about the shoulder

The bad news is the shoulder still hurts most of the time. The good news is I can still do 12 ounce curls and enjoy martinis. Half a dozen of either and the pain in the shoulder is a mute issue.
For background, I've had torn cuffs in both shoulders. (On one, the supraspinatus attachment was completely severed). From experience, the ortho guys will tell you you need surgery, either a repair or replacement. The physical therapy folks will suggest you give them first shot. Many times therapy can resolve the issue, but in the case of detached parts this is not possible. I tried a repair, using a cadaver graft. The graft took but I'd waited too long. The muscle had atrophied beyond recovery. Next up was a total reverse replacement. My take: the repair was a bitch to recover from, the replacement, comparatively, a piece of cake.
A bit off subject, but that reminds me of the old joke where the guy goes to the doctor complaining of a pain in his right eye every time he has a martini. The doctor did a thorough examination and couldn't come up with any reason for the pain.

The guy came back several more times over the next few weeks with the same complaint. As in the past, the doctor couldn't find any correlation between having a martini and the eye pain. Finally, after several more visits the doctor suggested they meet at the patients' favorite bar to observe the process and see if he could come up with a diagnosis.

When they got there the patient immediately ordered a double martini with an olive as a garnish. The doctor observed the mixing and pouring process finding nothing out of the ordinary, so he ordered the same thing for himself. All went well until they decided to have a taste. The patient quickly raised his glass and downed half the drink. He immediately felt a pain in the right eye and asked the doctor for a preliminary diagnosis.

The doctor calmly took a sip of his drink and advised his patient to remove the olive with the toothpick in it before taking another drink.
My wife works in an ortho office. The "physical therapy BEFORE mri" insurance deal drives her mad. Another example of our broken health insurance system.

Good luck Conrad!
Have a torn rotator cuff (off road m/cycle crash). Cortesone shot didn't help with the pain.

Doc prescribed physiotherapy.

Physiotherapist said
"not sure why your here, physiotherapy doesn't fix a torn rotator cuff"

Did about 16 weeks of physiotherapy, since then I hardly notice a problem in my shoulder.

So don't be surprised if you get physiotherapy before they start talking about surgery.

Good luck with it!
Conrad: My wife had a torn rotater cuff from a fall and had surgery for it and then therapy. Our word of wisdom is to stay with the therapy. It ain't fun, but very necessary. Today, my wife's shoulder that was repaired is much stronger than the one not injured. Good luck.
The injury is something that happens in the weight lifting crowd. Doesn't take extreme weights either.
Maybe you can look up what the weight trainer does to recover.
I had slap surgery in March, I'm still recovering strength but there is no pain and range of motion is vastly improved. I had 0 pain after the surgery and even pt wasn't bad at all.
Everyone's body and case is different, shoulders are very complicated. There are shoulder braces on ebay and elsewhere that will help support the shoulder. That will promote healing and allow muscles and tendons to rest. I wish I'd tried one when mine was bad - for a while I had to hook my thumb in my pocket because of the knife pain on every step.

Examinations by regular doctors can make your injury worse. That was my experience. After that experience I would be very hesitant to allow a non-specialist to examine a shoulder injury. Rotator cuff injuries (in part) describe damage as a percentage of the tear. Similar for a labrum tear (that is the liner to the shoulder socket, and it helps stabilize the joint).

PT won't always help, and it can make it worse. That was my case. I ended up having to do my own PT - very slowly. The right physio probably makes a big difference.

An MRI can be $400. If the insurance company won't pay, I would shop around and get one (though not all MRI machines - and software - are the same - they are always improving). F the insurance company. Understanding the diagnosis from the radiologist, and the implications, is difficult.

When you go in for the MRI, ask them to make you a copy of the data. I left with the DVD in hand and it included viewing software. There is also free viewing software. And there is more sophisticated 3D visualization software. You'll also want the text diagnosis from the radiologist. That usually comes a bit later.

Surgeons vary greatly. They tend to want to operate, maybe even if it is not necessary. Do work with one who mainly does just shoulders, not knees or hips. And you want someone who does a lot. Big sports medicine hospitals can be good, but then you don't want the student learning on you.

But maybe you don't even need surgery.

Heck you could post your MRI data and maybe someone here with a Swiss machine could fix you up!