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When Does a Rotator Cuff Injury Require Surgery?

Jan 24, 2023
When Does a Rotator Cuff Injury Require Surgery?
Surgery is not usually your first treatment option for rotator cuff issues. However, there can come a time when it’s necessary. Our specialists explain when and why they may recommend surgery to repair your rotator cuff.

Integrity Spine & Orthopedics offers a full range of outstanding spine and general orthopedic diagnostic and treatment services from our state-of-the-art facilities in Jacksonville, Florida.

Our team includes top-level board-certified and fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons dedicated to providing the most effective treatment option available to eliminate pain and restore mobility. Find out how we determine whether a rotator cuff injury requires surgery.  

Understanding rotator cuff injuries

The rotator cuff is a group of tendons and muscles surrounding the shoulder joint. Its main job is to support the shoulder through its range of motion and keep the head of your upper arm bone (humerus) securely positioned in the shoulder socket.

Tendons are strong, rope-like cords of flexible tissue that attach muscle to bone. Injuries (rotator cuff tears) occur when a rotator cuff tendon separates completely or partially from the bone. 

Symptoms of rotator cuff injury include reduced range of motion, deep aching pain in the shoulder when active or at rest, and weakness in the arm and shoulder that may interfere with routine activities.

What causes rotator cuff injuries?

Rotator cuff injuries are common in many sports, especially pitching, weightlifting, and other activities that heavily engage the shoulders. However, various hobbies and occupations, such as carpentry, farming, painting, and others that require extensive use of the shoulders, also increase your risk of injuring the rotator cuff.

Age is another factor in rotator cuff injuries since tendons tend to weaken and fray over time, making them more vulnerable to damage if you’re over 50. Based on an evaluation that includes diagnostic studies to determine the extent of your injury, your Integrity Spine & Orthopedics provider generally recommends conservative therapies to treat a rotator tendon tear.

How do you treat rotator cuff injuries without surgery?

Our team at Integrity Spine & Orthopedics offers numerous conservative treatments for rotator cuff tears, including:

  • Rest and activity modification
  • Nonprescription anti-inflammatory medicine
  • Physical therapy
  • A one-time steroid injection to reduce inflammation

Your provider may also recommend regenerative medicine treatment, such as platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections, to reduce inflammation and speed healing.

When do you recommend surgery for a rotator cuff injury?    

Surgery for a rotator cuff injury is necessary if you don’t respond adequately to conservative treatments. Your provider may otherwise recommend surgery when your pain or decreased range of motion interferes with your overall quality of life. Also, if you’re a professional athlete or quite active and have a significant tendon tear, you may require surgery sooner rather than later.

Fortunately, we perform minimally invasive (arthroscopic) rotator cuff surgery at Integrity Spine & Orthopedics. During this outpatient procedure, your surgeon makes several small incisions and utilizes a scope to visualize the surgical field. 

This minimally invasive approach leads to less surrounding tissue trauma, decreases post-surgical pain, and often results in faster healing and a quicker return to full activity than traditional or open surgery.

Your post-surgical treatment plan also includes physical therapy and rehab designed to improve your shoulder strength and flexibility while reducing your risk of future injury.  

Don’t delay treatment for shoulder pain. Seeking treatment sooner rather than later means that nonsurgical treatments are more likely to be effective. Call Integrity Spine & Orthopedics today to schedule an evaluation or request an appointment online.