Posted on March 6, 2015
Marc Kowalsky MD
Marc Kowalsky, MD.

ONS welcomes Dr. Kowalsky,  a board-certified orthopedic surgeon with expertise in rehab-focused, as well as operative treatments for upper and lower extremity sports injury, and complex shoulder and elbow conditions including degenerative disease, trauma, and revision surgery. He has also authored original research manuscripts, review articles, textbook chapters focusing on AC joint reconstruction, rotator cuff repair, and shoulder replacement, and now he is adding to the educational articles ONS provides.

Shoulder pain is the second most common musculoskeletal complaint to a primary care physician, behind only back pain. Twenty percent of the population will suffer from shoulder pain during their lifetime.  A variety of conditions can contribute to shoulder pain, ranging from rotator cuff problems to arthritis of the shoulder joint.

The rotator cuff tendon consists of the tendons of the four muscles that originate on the shoulder blade and insert on the humerus adjacent to the ball of the shoulder joint.  These muscles participate in rotation and elevation of the arm.  A bursa, or fluid-filled sac, lies on top of the rotator cuff tendon, and helps to protect or shield the tendon from the adjacent structures of the shoulder as the tendon glides.

Although most people who present to their physician with a rotator cuff problem likely have simple tendonitis, or bursitis, some may in fact have a rotator cuff tear.  At least twenty-five percent of people over the age of sixty may have a tear in the rotator cuff tendon.  Most of these tears are chronic and degenerative in nature, without any traumatic cause.  These patients experience shoulder pain with motion away from the body and overhead, typically along the side of the shoulder and arm.  They may also experience night pain that awakens them from sleep.

Some patients may also notice weakness, depending on the size of the tear.  A rotator cuff tear, once present, is unlikely to heal on its own, and may enlarge over time.  Nevertheless, many patients with a tear can be successfully treated with conservative means, including physical therapy, oral anti-inflammatory medication, and perhaps an injection of corticosteroid.  For those patients who do continue to experience pain due to a rotator cuff tear, operative repair is an option.  This procedure is typically performed arthroscopically, and consists of anchoring of the torn tendon to its attachment site with a series of small screws, or anchors.  Ultimately this procedure is effective in improving a patient’s pain and overall function. (…to be continued)

If this topic interests you keep an eye out for the next installment and attend Dr. Kowalsky’s upcoming seminar on March 12th at Greenwich Hospital. The program is free and open to the public.
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