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Shoulder Pain? Maybe It's a Torn Rotator Cuff.

Shoulder Pain? Maybe It's a Torn Rotator Cuff.

Renowned shoulder specialist will discuss diagnosis and treatment options at online seminar

Rotator cuff tears are a common cause of shoulder pain. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, nearly 2 million people in the U.S. seek medical care each year because of rotator cuff tears, which account for up to $5 billion per year in medical costs and decreased productivity.

The rotator cuff complex is made up of muscles and tendons, which connect the upper arm bone (humerus) to the “socket” (glenoid) of the shoulder blade. When rotator cuff tendons are torn, they become partially or completely detached from the humerus, and they cannot regenerate themselves.

“The shoulder is one of the most complex structures in the human body, and rotator cuff injuries are the most common condition I see in my medical practice,” says John Costouros, MD, an expert shoulder disorders specialist and the chief of shoulder surgery at Washington Hospital’s Institute for Joint Restoration and Research (IJRR).

Dr. Costouros has devoted his entire career to the comprehensive treatment of shoulder disorders such as sports injuries, fractures, rotator cuff tears, instability problems and arthritis. Prior to joining the IJRR program, he was a full-time member of the Stanford Orthopedic Surgery Faculty, training hundreds of surgeons from around the world and sharing the latest advancements and techniques. He says many shoulder injuries can be treated without surgery, and most shoulder injuries requiring surgery can be treated today with minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery techniques. Dr. Costouros also specializes in shoulder joint replacement surgery and reconstruction for more complex problems.

“I decided to join Dr. John Dearborn at the Institute for Joint Restoration and Research because I wanted to provide more personalized care than is usually available in academic hospitals these days,” he notes.

To help people in the community learn more about rotator cuff injuries and treatments, Washington Hospital is offering a free online seminar featuring Dr. Costouros on Tuesday, Aug. 30. The seminar, “Rotator Cuff Repair: Advances in Treatment Options,” will be presented through Facebook and YouTube, beginning at 11 a.m. The seminar will include time for questions from participants.

During his presentation, Dr. Costouros will cover the risk factors, symptoms and current treatments for rotator cuff injuries.

“The primary symptoms of rotator cuff tears include pain in the shoulder that radiates down the arm,” he explains. “The pain is usually sharp and related to specific movements and arm positions. It also tends to be worse at night, particularly if you are lying on the affected shoulder. I will discuss these symptoms in more detail during the seminar and explain the methods we use to diagnose rotator cuff tears.”

According to Dr. Costouros, rotator cuff tears fall into two general categories: acute (traumatic) and wear-related (degenerative). “In younger people, most rotator cuff tears result from traumatic injuries such as a fall or sports injury,” he says. “Wear-and-tear injuries are more common in older people. Some athletes who are involved in repetitive overhead activities – including golf, tennis, baseball, swimming and weightlifting – are more prone to degenerative injuries. Workers such as painters and warehouse employees who do a lot of overhead work also have a greater chance of developing rotator cuff tears.”

At the seminar, Dr. Costouros will discuss the various treatment options for rotator cuff tears, including medications, physical therapy, injections of steroids and newer biologic materials, as well as innovative techniques such as tendon transfers and the recently FDA-approved arthroscopic balloon placement procedure.

“I also will explain advancements in shoulder replacement surgeries,” he adds. “For example, in cases where a large rotator cuff tear has developed in addition to loss of cartilage over time causing arthritis, a traditional shoulder replacement will not be effective because the shoulder will dislocate without a functioning rotator cuff. For these patients, a reverse shoulder replacement procedure might be an option.”

The reverse shoulder replacement implant has been used successfully for many years in Europe, but it was not FDA-approved for use in the U.S. until March 2004. Dr. Costouros gained extensive experience with the reverse shoulder replacement procedure while working in Switzerland prior to its FDA approval in the U.S. and was one of the pioneers of this procedure in the U.S.

Join the Seminar – Learn More

To view the Aug. 30 seminar on Facebook, sign into your account and then go to Watching from YouTube does not require an account. Simply go to

People attending the seminar via Facebook will be able to ask questions directly during the seminar. Anyone can submit questions in advance to Following the live event, this seminar – like hundreds of other Washington Hospital productions – can be found on their YouTube channel,

If you would like more information about the IJRR at Washington Hospital, visit For more information about Dr. Costouros and his medical practice, visit

To watch “Rotator Cuff Repair: Advances in Treatment Options” seminar on our YouTube InHealth channel, click here

Learn more about Institute for Joint Restoration and Research (IJRR)