Doc Talk: Rotator cuff tears are more common than you think

CBS 21

As we age, most of us get less active, causing muscles, ligaments and tendons to tighten.

Doctors say about 50 percent of people are walking around today with some kind of tear in the rotator cuff.

“As we get older, we'll watch TV and football, sports for weeks and then we're raking the yard or moving stuff into the attic,” Dr. Damian Rispoli, an orthopedic surgeon at Holy Spirit, said.

And just like that, tearing in your rotator cuff and lots of pain.

In cases of minimal pain, Dr. Rispoli says physical therapy will often do the trick.

“If one muscle is torn or partially torn, as long as the other three are working and the shoulder is rehabbed, likely it's not going to give you much problems,” Dr. Rispoli said.

From there, the next step could be injections that can relieve pain for several weeks or months at a time.

But in more serious cases, arthritis can come about.

“If the patient develops arthritis, we cut off about a T-size portion of the top of the bone. We take a metal stem with a metal ball and we replace that surface,” Dr. Rispoli said.

There are several types of shoulder joint replacements, but which is best suited to you depends on how severe your cartilage and bone have been affected.

“We started to get a surface that’s really more flat on flat and as you begin to lose the range of motion because the structure of the joint is changing,” Dr. Rispoli said.

Generally, total joint replacement lasts about 20 years with 90 percent relief. Partial replacement is good for 15 years with 70 percent relief. Reverse shoulder replacement lasts up to 10 years with 90 percent relief.

“The more active you can be on a recurrent, daily basis, the better off you’re going to be,” Dr. Rispoli said.

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