Our son has suffered a partial rotator cuff tear from playing football. We’ve spoken to an orthopedic surgeon who recommends surgery as the best solution. Our friends have encouraged us to try physical therapy before considering surgery. We’re not sure what to do. Can you shed some light on the matter?
Your physician has received formal training, has the most knowledge about your son’s personal situation and is the best resource for determining a course of treatment. However, if... read more
Source: Jennifer Holland, Director of Rehabilitation Therapy
Your physician has received formal training, has the most knowledge about your son’s personal situation and is the best resource for determining a course of treatment. However, if you are not comfortable with a diagnosis, I always suggest getting a second opinion. In the event you want to explore a more conservative alternative to surgery, you may want to try physical therapy (PT) first. People with smaller tears usually improve with physical therapy. In some cases, patients have vastly improved with a combination of physical therapy and steroid injections. If shoulder strength and function do not improve after three to six months of physical therapy, surgical repair may be considered.
The rotator cuff is composed of four muscles, each of which has a tendon that attaches to the upper arm bone. These tendons form a cuff around the head of the upper arm bone. The rotator cuff tendons may tear as a result of injury, chronic over use, or a combination of both.
The treatment goals for a torn rotator cuff are to recover lost strength, improve the function of the shoulder, and treat any underlying tendinitis. Conservative treatment is adequate in the vast majority of cases, although younger athletes with larger tears, particularly affecting the dominant arm, may be candidates for surgical repair. Following shoulder surgery, your physician will determine a rehabilitation plan for your unique situation.
It’s important to note that symptoms of rotator cuff tear often include pain and weakness of the shoulder, although some people have few or no symptoms. In addition, the severity of the tear does not necessarily correlate with the severity of a person's pain; in other words, a person with a partial tear may have severe pain while a person with a complete tear may have little or no pain. However, if left untreated, the condition and symptoms may worsen.