Rotator Cuff Injury: Surgical vs Nonsurgical Treatment


The shoulder is the most mobile joint in the human body, but that mobility comes with a price. It is also one of the most unstable and susceptible to injury. Your larger deltoid muscles do not keep your shoulder in place, but your 4 smaller and weaker rotator cuff muscles keep it stable. If you've played years of sports or done years of shoulder or chest workout, chances are you've experienced some rotator cuff inflammation, weakness, or tears causing your shoulder joint to be vulnerable to dislocation. It can be a painful and chronic injury that can really affect your daily live in addition to your fitness goals. 

If you are experiencing serious pain in your shoulder, and think that you may need rotator cuff surgery – or you’ve been trying physical therapy and other noninvasive treatments with limited results – you may be wondering if rotator cuff surgery is right for you. In this article, we’ll take a look at a few reasons that you may want to consider rotator cuff surgery. Let’s get started. 

1. Symptoms Last For Several Weeks Or Longer 

If you have been experiencing serious pain and other symptoms for several weeks, you may need rotator cuff surgery. However, it’s important to understand whether or not you have a rotator cuff injury, or if you are experiencing another issue such as a torn labrum. Rotator cuff tears usually present with the following symptoms: 

● Dull aching felt deep within the shoulder 
● Disturbed sleep, especially when lying on the affected shoulder 
● Difficult reaching behind back or hair combing movements
● Feelings of arm weakness 
● Decreased ability to “abduct” the arm (move it to the side) 
● Cannot lift arm higher than shoulder level, either front or lateral

If you recognize these symptoms, you probably have a torn rotator cuff, and surgery may be required unless you begin taking steps to prevent further injury. Contact a medical professional immediately along with reading the rests of this article. 

2. You’re Experiencing Serious Weakness And Pain 

After An Acute Injury While many minor rotator cuff injuries can be resolved without therapy, acute injuries typically require surgery, especially in the case of full-thickness rotator cuff tears. If you feel as if you are unable to move your arm, and you are experiencing other symptoms like significant bruising, swelling, and pain after an injury, you may have a serious rotator cuff tear. These are most commonly caused by traumatic injuries, such as slips and falls, car accidents, and heavy hits in contact sports like hockey or football. 

3. Your Shoulder Has Not Responded To Noninvasive Treatments 

If you have already sought out physical therapy and taken other steps, such as: 

● Resting your arm 
● Using ice packs to reduce swelling 
● Seeing a physical therapist to restore range of motion in your arm ● Taking anti-inflammatories to relieve pain and swelling 

If you have seen no results and can't even do a light shoulder workout, you may need to have rotator cuff surgery. Physical therapy and rest can resolve many minor tears in the rotator cuff, but some cases will require surgery. 

4. You’re Worried About Further Damage To Your Shoulder 

If you have a serious rotator cuff tear, physical therapy and alternative treatments could cause additional damage to your rotator cuff, resulting in pain and poor range of motion. If you are seriously worried about further damage to your shoulder, you should see a surgeon to get a consultation immediately. You can get a CAT scan or another scan done on your shoulder, and the doctor will be able to determine whether or not alternative therapies pose a risk of further damage to your rotator cuff. 

5. You Can Accept The Risks Of A Surgical Procedure 

Rotator cuff surgery is very safe, but it carries the same risks of all other surgical procedures, such as infection, complications related to anesthesia, fluid buildup under the skin, and so on. If you are healthy, and able to accept these risks, surgery may be right for you. Conversely, if it’s found that you’re a poor candidate for surgery, you may not be able to get treatment until your lifestyle and health have improved, or you may need to seek alternative therapies. 

Get The Treatment You Need For Your Rotator Cuff Injury 

Whether you have a minor rotator cuff injury, or suspect that you have a full-thickness tear, this guide is sure to help you get the treatment you need. Just remember that the longer you wait to get help, the more difficult the recovery process will be – so see your doctor as soon as you can to learn more about your treatment options.

Whatever you do, make sure you explore all treatment options and do not ignore it. Hopefully with the right treatments and a healthy lifestyle you'll be back on the field or in the gym and getting the fitness results you desire.


I hope you enjoyed this article about how to determine the ideal rotator cuff injury treatment while staying on a budget.

Interested in more articles about frugal sports medicine? 

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