Nonoperative Treatment for Rotator Cuff Tears in Chicago

Nonoperative Treatment for Rotator Cuff Tears in Chicago

Rotator cuff tears can happen due to many reasons including, stress, continuous activity, or repetitive motion. They may be partially torn, causing swelling in the tendons of the rotator cuff. Sudden stress may cause a tendon to pull away from the bone or tear in the middle of the tendon.

The rotator cuff is a group of four tendons and muscles that connect around the shoulder joint at the top of the humerus, the upper part of the arm bone above the elbow. Both together form a cuff which holds the arm in place and allows it to move in different directions. Even though the shoulder is one of the most moveable joints, it is also one of the weakest and prone to have trouble.


Rotator cuff disease may result from repetitive activity, such as reaching overhead, heavy lifting for a prolonged period of time, and sometimes, from developing bone spurs in the bones around the shoulder. These issues will irritate or damage the tendon. Over all, rotator cuff disease usually is a result of an injury to the shoulder or to the wear-and-tear of the tendon tissue, which causes progressive degeneration. A few more reasons for rotator cuff tears include:

  • Lifting heavy objects
  • Breaking a fall with your arm
  • Falling on the shoulder
  • Pitching baseball
  • Playing Football
  • Sports such as tennis and racket ball and golf
  • Swimming
  • Age increases the risk of rotator cuff injury and can happen past the age of forty.
  • Genetics may be a reason for rotator cuff problems.
  • Jobs requiring lots of repetitive shoulder rotation such as painting.


In a recent study of 104 patients with acute soft tissue injury to the shoulder, the median age was 49 years. Of the patients, 58% had some degree of rotator cuff lesion on ultrasonic examination, and 32% had a full-thickness tear of the rotator cuff. The prevalence of a rotator cuff tear following shoulder trauma is 50% for patients age 50 and above.


If you develop a rotator cuff tear, it’s usually gradual, yet they may happen suddenly as well. You may first feel an intense pain with weakness, and sometimes, hear a snapping sound. The symptoms of a rotator cuff tear include:

  • Shoulder tenderness and weakness
  • Pain in the shoulder and sometimes the arm
  • Inability to lay on the shoulder
  • Cracking and snapping sounds when shoulder moves
  • Pain when moving the shoulder or lifting arm above the head.


When you first see your doctor about a rotator cuff tear, the Chicago pain doctor will want to get a family history and give you an examination. They will need you to try and move your arm in different direction in order to get a good idea about the cause of pain, and where the discomfort is stemming from. Some of the following tests may be ordered for further evaluation:

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • X-ray, for special viewing
  • Arthroscopy, which is a surgical procedure where a tiny camera is inserted into the shoulder joint to get a better look.
  • Arthrogram, which is an X-ray or MRI done after dye is injected into the joint in order for the doctor to see in detail.

These tests will allow your doctor to rule out other conditions and confirm that you have a rotator cuff tear. They may refer you to an orthopedic surgeon for treatment.


Many times, rotator cuff tears heal on their own, if given a little time. With rest, and avoiding certain activities that hurt, you will help yourself to heal much faster. Wearing a sling also helps. Few other helpful hints:

  • Anti-inflammatory painkillers. such as Motrin, Advil, and Aleve. These carry side effects such as ulcers or increased bleeding so should be used only on occasion.
  • Range-of-motion exercises. Only doctor recommended.
  • Putting ice on the shoulder a few times a day to reduce pain and swelling.
  • Physical therapy. Strengthens joints.
  • Injections – these may include cortisone, platelet rich plasma therapy or possibly stem cell therapy.

Illinois Pain Institute offers comprehensive nonoperative treatments for rotator cuff and all types of shoulder injuries. This may include medications or procedures. For more information on stem cell therapy, visit The Regenerative Stem Cell Institute today!


Sorensen AK, Bak K, Krarup AL, et al. (2007). Acute rotator cuff tear: do we miss the early diagnosis? A prospective study showing a high incidence of rotator cuff tears after shoulder trauma. Shoulder Elbow Surg, 16(2) 174-182.

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