Contributed by Andrew Lantz, PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS, CMTPT and co-owner
Rotator cuff tears are very common, especially in those of 55 years of age or older. Depending on the pain you are experiencing, your loss of function, and if you seek conservative care or a consult with a surgeon will all factor into you considering surgery as a top option. So, do you have to undergo surgery if you suffer a rotator cuff tear?
The short answer is no. In fact, there is limited evidence that surgery is actually more effective in treating rotator cuff tears than conservative treatment (physical therapy and long-term exercise). Review studies have demonstrated that there is no clinically significant difference between surgery and active physical therapy in 1 year and 2 year follow-ups per pain and functional scales used as progress measures. Other findings include operative treatment not protecting against degeneration or development of osteoarthritis of the shoulder joint.
Based upon these review studies, a conservative approach is advocated as the initial treatment with surgery being a consideration if no improvements are being made. As physical therapy is less prone to complications and less expensive than surgery, a conservative approach is always advocated as the initial treatment modality to rotator cuff tears.
There is no need to rush into surgery! If you or a loved one is suffering from pain and loss of function from a rotator cuff tear, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with one of our specialized Virginia Beach physical therapists today! Call 757-335-2894 or visit www.restorativetherapyco.com
Ryösä A, Laimi K, Äärimaa V, Lehtimäki K, Kukkonen J, Saltychev M. Surgery or conservative treatment for rotator cuff tear: a meta-analysis. Disabil Rehabil. 2017;39(14):1357–63.
Moosmayer S, Lund G, Seljom US, Haldorsen B, Svege IC, Hennig T, Pripp AH, Smith HJ. Tendon repair compared with physiotherapy in the treatment of rotator cuff tears: a randomized controlled study in 103 cases with a five-year follow-up. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2014;96(18):1504–14.
Piper CC, Hughes AJ, Ma Y, Wang H, Neviaser AS. Operative versus nonoperative treatment for the management of full-thickness rotator cuff tears: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Shoulder Elb Surg. 2018;27(3):572–6.
Kukkonen et al. 2021. OPERATIVE VS. CONSERVATIVE TREATMENT OF SMALL NON-TRAUMATIC SUPRASPINATUS TEARS IN PATIENTS OVER 55 YEARS. Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery
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