The "rotator cuff" is the group of 4 muscles and their tendons responsible for keeping the shoulder joint stable. Injuries to the rotator cuff are common—either from accident or trauma, or with repeated overuse of the shoulder. Risk of injury can vary, but generally increases as a person ages. Rotator cuff tears are more common later in life, but also can occur in younger people. When left untreated, a rotator cuff tear can cause severe pain and a decrease in the ability to use the arm.
A recent study in the Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery looked at whether or not physical therapy can help avoid surgery on a rotator cuff tear. The MOON Shoulder Group, which is a multi-center network of research teams around the country, followed a group of 381 patients with atraumatic full-thickness tears of the rotator cuff for a minimum of two tears. The patients performed 6-12 weeks of nonoperative physical therapy focusing on basic rotator cuff strengthening, soft tissue mobilization, and joint mobilizations. At the six-week mark, patients were assessed and 9% chose to have rotator cuff repair surgery at that point. At 12-weeks, an additional 6% chose to have surgery, and, in total, 26% of patients decided to have surgery by the 2-year follow-up mark. That means nearly 75% of patients avoided rotator cuff repair surgery by performing physical therapy despite having full thickness cuff tears.
Physical Therapy can help you reduce the worsening of the symptoms of a rotator cuff tear and even decrease your risk of worsening a tear, especially if you seek assistance at the first sign of shoulder pain or discomfort. To avoid developing a rotator cuff tear from an existing shoulder problem, it is imperative to stop performing actions that could make it worse. Your physical therapist will help you strengthen your rotator cuff muscles, train you to avoid potentially harmful positions, and determine when it is appropriate for you to return to your normal activities.
To maintain shoulder health and prevent rotator cuff tears, we recommend that you:
If you are suffering from the symptoms due to a rotator cuff tear, call us today. We can get you the help and relief you need and get you back to doing the things you love without experiencing pain!