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Managing Rotator Cuff Tears without Going Under the Knife

You know that nagging shoulder pain that just won’t go away? It could be a rotator cuff tear, a
common shoulder problem that affects many people. But don’t worry, there are different ways to
treat it. Let’s dive in and explore how we can best manage rotator cuff tears and get you back to
doing what you love!

What’s the Rotator Cuff, and How Do Tears Happen?

Your shoulder is a ball and socket joint. The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons
that keeps the ball (your upper arm bone) snug in the socket (your shoulder blade). Sometimes,
these muscles and tendons can get worn out or injured, causing tears. It’s like a tiny rip or hole in the
fabric of your shoulder. The 4 muscles are the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and

What Makes You More Likely to Get a Rotator Cuff Tear?

Lots of things! Getting older is a big one. Over time, our tendons can weaken and become
more prone to tears. Doing the same movements over and over again, like throwing a ball or lifting
heavy objects, can also wear down the rotator cuff. And if you’ve ever taken a tumble or had a
shoulder injury, that can cause tears too. Even how you sit or stand can make a difference –
slouching or hunching over can put extra stress on your shoulders. Genetics is another factor, some
people are just more likely to experience tears, especially if your parents and/or grandparents have
experienced the same. Although these factors may predispose you to experiencing a rotator cuff
tear, it doesn’t mean you can’t get better.

Choosing Between Physiotherapy and Surgery:

Here’s the big question: do you need surgery to fix your shoulder, or can physiotherapy do the
trick? Recent studies say both can work pretty well. One study found that people who tried
physiotherapy had similar improvements in pain and movement as those who had surgery. And get
this – some folks who started with physiotherapy ended up having surgery later on because their
shoulder still hurt. It’s like trying the gentle approach first and then going for the big guns if you need

Fixing Your Shoulder with Physiotherapy:

Okay, so you’ve got a rotator cuff tear and surgery isn’t for you, now what? Enter
physiotherapy! Physiotherapists can design rehabilitation programs for your shoulder. Your therapist
will show you special exercises to stretch and strengthen your shoulder muscles. They might also
use hands-on techniques, like massage or gentle stretching, to help ease the pain. Plus, they might
use fancy gadgets or techniques like heat packs, electrical stimulation, or some form of needle
therapy (dry needling or acupuncture) to make your shoulder feel better. Everyone’s exercises and
treatment are different, well, because people are unique!

Wrapping It Up:

So, if you’re dealing with a cranky shoulder, there’s hope! Whether you opt for physiotherapy
or surgery, there are ways to mend those rotator cuff tears and get you back to your favorite
activities. Just remember, it’s all about finding what works best for you and your shoulder. So, don’t
be afraid to talk to your doctor or therapist about your options. Together, you’ll find the best path to
recovery and getting back to doing the things you love.

Kukkonen, Juha, et al. “Treatment of Nontraumatic Rotator Cuff Tears: A Randomized Controlled
Trial with Two Years of Clinical and Imaging Follow-up.” JAMA Surgery, vol. 154, no. 10, 2019, pp. 1-9.
Lambers Heerspink, Frederik O., et al. “Comparative effectiveness of conservative and surgical
treatment for symptomatic degenerative rotator cuff tears: A systematic review and meta-analysis.”
Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery, vol. 29, no. 8, 2020, pp. 1717-1728.
Moosmayer, Stefan, et al. “Surgery for small rotator cuff tears is not more effective than
physiotherapy or placebo surgery: A randomized controlled trial.” British Medical Journal, vol. 362,
2018, pp. k1660