Schedule Appointment

Rotator Cuff Tears: Rehabilitation vs. Surgery

Rotator Cuff

By: Devin Wurman, DPT

In the physical therapy business, regardless of the time of year, we see plenty of patients complaining of shoulder pain. Most shoulder pain occurs following repetitive movements. These cause wear and tear that breaks down the rotator cuff tendons. Activities such as raking leaves and shoveling are common culprits that send people to seek medical attention for shoulder pain.  In addition, injuries that involve lifting can also cause increased pain in the shoulders.

What Is The Rotator Cuff?

The rotator cuff is made up of four small muscles that control movement and provide stability of the shoulder joint. Collectively, these muscles are referred to as the ‘rotator cuff’. Your shoulder is made up of the arm bone called the humerus, the shoulder blade (scapula), and your collarbone (clavicle).  The rotator cuff ensures that your arm bone moves normally in the socket and you are able to do activities such as raising your arm overhead, behind your back, and throw a ball.  The muscles of the rotator cuff attach to the shoulder bone via tendons.

How Does The Rotator Cuff tear?

When the tendons have been overused or an injury occurs that causes excessive force through the tendons, they can tear.  Tendons will either partially tear or completely tear. A tear is described in ‘degrees’ and the degree of tear is determined by the muscles affected and the thickness of the tear. Repetitive overhead motions are the most common cause of tears which is why the frequency of rotator cuff tears among construction workers and baseball players is high. As with many issues, the risk for rotator cuff tears increases with age.

What Are Some Shoulder Injury Symptoms?

  • any kind of pain
  • decrease in range of motion
  • weakness

If you start feeling any of the above symptoms, you should address that issue immediately! Usually, if you see your primary care physician or orthopedist they will refer you to physical therapy to see if conservative management can restore your function.

How Can Physical Therapy Help?

Your therapist will be able to perform an evaluation and discuss what is causing your pain or injury. They will then put together an appropriate treatment plan tailored to your specific goals and needs. Occasionally during your treatment, the physical therapist may recommend that you follow up with an orthopedist if you are not making progress in physical therapy. It could mean there is a deeper issue in which case another medical intervention such as an injection may be beneficial to help you through your therapy treatment. After a course of therapy is completed, if you are still having pain, weakness, and continued loss of function, the orthopedist may prescribe an MRI. Once you get an MRI, the doctor will be able to determine if surgery is the best next step. Physical therapy will then be an integral part of the rehabilitation process following surgery so you can get back to doing the activities you love PAIN-FREE!

If you are feeling any kind of pain or discomfort in your shoulder, don’t wait to address it. HANDLE IT NOW so you can hopefully avoid more invasive medical treatment like injections or even surgery. Call Loudoun Sports Therapy Center in Sterling, VA at 703-450-4300 and schedule your personalized evaluation with one of our physical therapists. Start your journey back top PAIN-FREE living! 

CLICK HERE for more on how physical therapy can help you.