According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, nonsurgical treatment alleviates shoulder pain and restores mobility in approximately 80% of patients.
Conservative treatment options include:
- Rest and restricting certain arm movements and other activities that cause pain
- A sling
- Over-the-counter pain medicine such as aspirin or ibuprofen can curtail discomfort and inflammation
- Exercise, stretching, and physical therapy to enhance flexibility and mobility
- Steroid injections such as cortisone
When conservative methods fail to resolve the symptoms of pain and swelling over a considerable amount of time, an orthopedic surgeon may recommend surgery as a last line of defense. The good news is that there is no urgency to have surgery closer to the time of injury as studies show the effectiveness of surgery to be the same regardless of when the rotator cuff tear occurred.
Surgery typically entails re-attaching the tendon to the upper arm bone. Different types of surgeries can be performed to repair rotator cuff injuries including:
- Arthroscopic tendon repair guided by a small camera to reattach the torn tendon to the bone
- Open tendon repair requiring larger incisions
- Tendon transfer from a nearby tendon if the damaged tendon is unrepairable
- Shoulder replacement for extensive rotator cuff injuries uses artificial components to repair and stabilize the injured shoulder joint
Patients can often obtain the full range of motion and strength back in the shoulder after surgery with the help of a guided physical therapy program and rehabilitation program.