ALHAMBRA, Calif. (KABC) --It's one of the most common causes of shoulder pain.
Orthopedic surgeons say about one in four Americans over age 40 deal with a rotator cuff injury, but refuse surgery because of the long rehab process.
Now a newly-approved, less invasive procedure is becoming more available.
Workers comp claims adjuster Richard Owens talks to people with medical needs all day long. But he never dreamed years of reaching across his desk would thin out his rotator cuff. One day the pain became excruciating.
"I reached down sitting in my chair to pick something up and it hurt like somebody took a nail and hit me in the shoulder with it," said Owens.
Years and years of repetitive movement wore down the tissue on Owens' rotator cuff. Dr. Randall Farac of Pacific Orthopedic Associates said the process is similar to wearing down the material on your favorite pair of jeans.
"The traditional treatment is physical therapy, but a lot of people were not satisfied because they were still left with a thin rotator cuff," Farac said.
Now Farac is treating his patients with a new, surgically placed bio-patch the size of a postage stamp.
"It's like ironing a patch to a pair of jeans to add tissue," Farac said.
The Rotation Medical implant procedure is less invasive than traditional surgery. And Farac said patients spend considerably less time in a sling and in physical therapy. Studies show the patch promotes healing of the tendon and encourages new tissue growth.
Less than a year after his procedure, Owens can't believe how well he can lift his arm.
"This was like terrible and now it's OK, alright. No problem," he said.
The device is also approved to treat tendon tears. Farac said patients who have failed treatments such as physical therapy or steroid injections are candidates.
Better ergonomics at his desk are also helping Owens remain pain-free.
As someone who works with worker's comp claims, he advises other patients to do their homework.
"People who are having injuries or shoulder pain problems should investigate and find out what it is," Owens said. "And then look at the alternatives to resolve it. Improve it."