The rotator cuff consists of four muscles that work together to keep the shoulder joint in the socket. The muscles come together as four essential tendons that cover the humeral head to provide stability and prevent dislocations.
The other function of the rotator cuff is to attach the upper arm bone (humerus) to the scapula (shoulder blade), which allows you to lift your arm and rotate it around.
Athletes and people who use their arms a lot for work or recreation are at risk for rotator cuff injuries. These injuries range from mild to severe and can inhibit daily activities.
Surgery is one option for a rotator cuff tear, but it’s not the only option. The team at Alpha Orthopedics & Sports Medicine also offers platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections to help heal injuries like rotator cuff tears.
Dr. Brian Snow and Dr. Jon Thompson are our two experienced orthopedic surgeons who provide expert evaluation and personalized treatments for shoulder pain.
Understanding rotator cuff injuries
Rotator cuff injuries are a common occurrence, especially in people who lift their arms over their head a lot or perform repetitive movements of the arm. Rotator cuff injuries can be either acute or chronic, leading to various symptoms, which include:
- Pain in the shoulder
- Arm weakness
- Cracking sound or popping sensation
- Difficulty moving the shoulder
- Pain while lying on the affected shoulder
You may also experience pain when lifting your arm or reaching behind your back. The symptoms depend on the severity and type of injury you have. The primary forms of rotator cuff injuries include:
Bursitis is an inflammation of the protective bursa sacs in the shoulder joint. These sacs contain fluid, which keeps the bones in the joint from rubbing.
When you have bursitis, the muscles and bones rub the bursa sacs too much, leading to pain and inflammation around the rotator cuff.
The rotator cuff tendons connect the four muscles to the bones of the shoulder joint. With repetitive movements, these tendons become irritated and inflamed, causing pain and discomfort in the arm and shoulder.
Rotator cuff tears
A rotator cuff tear is a severe injury that leads to pain and disability. Rotator cuff tears can be either partially through the tendons or a complete tear of the tendons.
Both acute injuries and repetitive strain on the rotator cuff can lead to tears of varying degrees. Athletes and people who perform repetitive motions for their jobs are at risk for rotator cuff tears.
What is PRP?
Platelet-rich plasma is a minimally invasive treatment for various orthopedic conditions, including tendinitis and bursitis.
PRP is a simple procedure in the office and only requires a simple blood draw from your arm. We take the vial of blood and place it into a centrifuge, a machine that spins the blood down.
The primary function of the centrifuge is to separate the whole blood cells from the platelets and plasma. Platelets are responsible for clotting the blood at the site of an injury. At the same time, plasma is the liquid portion that allows the blood to travel throughout the body.
However, the platelets aren’t only responsible for clotting; they also contain essential growth factors that aid in tissue recovery, especially after an injury.
PRP is a process of concentrating the platelets in your blood to provide a hefty dose of growth factors into a particular area. The growth factors trigger the body's healing process to heal a site of injury efficiently.
The effects of PRP on the rotator cuff
Our team suggests PRP therapy for various issues, including rotator cuff injuries. We may suggest PRP injections if you have a rotator cuff tear, tendinitis, or bursitis that isn’t improving with physical therapy alone.
Surgery for a rotator cuff tear isn’t always necessary, especially in partial tears that don’t completely limit daily activities. The concentrated growth factors trigger the body to heal the rotator cuff injury quickly and effectively.
The big question is, can you heal your injury faster with PRP treatments? The simple answer is yes. When you sustain an injury to the rotator cuff, the body responds with inflammation and healing properties.
However, when we inject PRP into the affected area, the platelets and growth factors multiply, allowing faster tissue healing.
It still takes several weeks to months for the rotator cuff injury to heal, even with PRP treatment. However, it’s still more effective than relying on over-the-counter medications and physical therapy alone.
We typically combine PRP injections with physical therapy for optimal results. PRP therapy also helps you prevent surgical intervention in some cases.
To get PRP for a rotator cuff injury, don’t hesitate to call one of our offices in Sherman, Prosper, and McKinney, Texas, or call the team today to schedule an appointment with Dr. Snow or Dr. Thompson.