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2 posts from March 2011

March 08, 2011

As seen on ABC/WJRT in Flint, Mi

Local man swears by in-home rotator cuff therapy

By Leslie Toldo

We've been talking about products that are made in America this week, but how about this? A Michigan invention that may make shoulder pain go away.

HealthFirst reporter Leslie Toldo introduces the Traverse City doctor who invented the RotatoReliever and to a man who says it definitely helped him.

It has the potential to help a lot of people. An estimated 40 million Americans have shoulder pain, and the majority of that pain is rooted in the rotator cuff.

When Bruce Fraser hurt his while doing a little sledge hammer demo on his cottage up north, he knew right away what it was.

"The problem was I couldn't sleep at night. I mean, I hurt my right shoulder and I always slept on my right side," Fraser said. " So I was having tremendous difficulty sleeping at night. Several relatives and, you know,  family members had torn rotator cuffs. They're like, yup, you got all the symptoms. I know exactly what you did."

So Bruce did what so many of us do when we come up with our own diagnosis. He started Googling, and that's where he found the RotatoReliever.

"We found that, basically, this relatively simple, in some ways, common sense approach has been remarkably effective," said Dr. Mike Carroll.

Carroll's invention is a two-part, 40-day, 40-night program. It starts with an apparatus worn by the patient at night to adjust arm position.

"The reason that is, is because they're, essentially, pinching off one of the key muscles of the rotator cuff, and it doesn't like to be pinched," Carroll said.

The rotator cuff is a group of four small muscles deep-down around your shoulder. Stopping the pressure is key to stopping the pain.

"The first night, I slept great. And when I woke up the next morning, I noticed a big difference," Fraser said.

But that was just part one. Each day for about five minutes, Bruce did a series of exercises with the RotatorReliever equipment.

"One of our goals was to be how can we get some way to strengthen the shoulder without strengthening the right muscles, the deepest muscles of the shoulder and not strengthen all the other muscles," Carroll said.

"RotatoReliever is going to accomplish the same thing as if I went to a doctor and did a therapy. Same thing. The difference is I get to take the RotatoReliever home with me and I get to keep it," Fraser said.

March 02, 2011

Award Winning Research

Award-winning research from Vanderbilt University was presented at the recent AAOS 2011 annual meeting in San Diego showing that exercise alone is very effective for people with rotator cuff tears.  This large study was on 396 patients, ages 18 to 100 years, who had full thickness tears in their rotator cuffs documented by MRI.  The primary symptom in most of these patients was shoulder pain.  These patients were put in a physical therapy program that included daily exercises, stretching, and active range of motion, all performed three times weekly.  The outpatients were initially shown how to do the exercises with the therapist and then were released to home therapy.  The patients were questioned via telephone at one to two years to determine if they had subsequently undergone surgery. 

The study showed a statistically significant improvement at six to twelve weeks using standardized measurements.  It showed that this initial improvement actually held up over the subsequent two years, and very few of these people, only 2%, had opted for surgery.  Dr. Kuhn, who headed the study, noted that the significant strength was its large size with many patients, with the inclusion of patients from multiple practices nationwide.  It was noted that the physical therapy program alleviated the pain and improved function without any specific therapy for the tear.  It basically showed that the tear could be overcome and that these people did well even though they had a full thickness tear in the rotator cuff.  Again they did well with physical therapy initially, followed by a home exercise regimen. 

This is very hopeful.  I believe that this research helps us plan a road map for patients that full thickness rotator cuff tears do not automatically mean surgery.  A significant message that health care providers need to put forth is that even though there is a rotator cuff tear, that is doea not equal surgery, and I think that our patients will benefit from this education.  I look forward to and anticipate more research that will help us confirm a future road map and more standardized treatment.  I think that at this moment in time, many patients don’t understand this.  They hear the word “tear” and they in their minds think it absolutely requires repair when in fact that is not the case.  We should always remember that the goal is to restore function and relieve pain.  We do not always need to make people anatomically perfect to do this.  It is also noteworthy that there is other research saying that 60% of 60-year-olds have a tear in their rotator cuff.  Obviously many of them are doing remarkably well.  The other thing to remember is that there are recent studies to suggest that shoulder function is forever altered after surgery is done.  This research came out of the Henry Ford Hospital system in Detroit.