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Where in the World is my Rotator Cuff?: September 30, 2012

When you hear about a rotator cuff injury, it’s often linked to an athlete, but millions of people, including Don Pettit, have the same trouble spot.

“Oh it was constant pain,” says Pettit, an arthroscopic rotator cuff repair patient.

They just have trouble pinpointing it.

“And got to where I couldn’t lift my arm over my head,” says Pettit.

“The rotator cuff is a series of four muscles and tendons that help you to lift your arm and rotate in all directions,” says Dr. John Mehalik, an orthopedic surgeon on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.

“This is the most commonly torn rotator cuff tendon right here called the supraspinatus. That’s the one that would help you lift your arm up like this,” says Dr. Mehalik.

The pain may come on gradually first with activity-related discomfort, like swinging a golf club. Then it starts disturbing your sleep.

The most common presenting symptom is night pain. Difficulty sleeping in certain positions can’t seem to get comfortable. Many patients won’t even think that it’s a shoulder-related problem because the say it’s really my arm that hurts.

Many times a single incident will take it over the top, resulting in a torn rotator cuff. It may require surgery. The repair can be done arthroscopically, operating through a few tiny poke holes.

“We’ve perfected a technique that allows us to reproducibly get people back to golf, tennis, any overhead activities within a three month period,” says Dr. Mehalik.

It worked for Pettit who is ready to put his shoulder problems behind him.

“I feel good, really good. Probably about another month or two I’ll be back to normal,” says Pettit.