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Physical therapy a good first choice before surgery for rotator cuff tears

Why get surgery if you don’t need it? Those who experience non-traumatic rotator cuff tears, for example, would do just as well with “conservative treatment” such as physical therapy.

That’s according to a study published in Bone and Joint Journal (“Treatment of non-traumatic rotator cuff tears: A randomised controlled trial with one-year clinical results” — January 2014), which found that patients who received physical therapy alone for rotator cuff tears showed similar rates of physical improvement and patient satisfaction to those who received arthroscopic surgery or open surgical repair, combined with physical therapy.

This study well represents our experience and our patients’ treatment results when receiving treatment for rotator cuff tear. Results may vary depending on factors such as severity and extent of the tear, presence of other injured tissues, and the patient’s lifestyle. However, treatments such as medical exercise therapy, joint mobilization, stretching, neuromuscular re-education, and progressive resisted strengthening can play a crucial role in recovery without surgery. Exercise promotes the body’s physiologic responses and the necessary circulation to rebuild the injured tissue. A reasonable progression to more challenging exercises will help to improve tissue integrity and the strength of the individual. Joint mobilization will restore the normal mobility required for a full recovery. Typically, rehabilitation may be required for 6-12 weeks for a return to pre-injury status.

A thorough examination by a doctor of physical therapy can determine whether or not there is rotator cuff pathology. In the state of New Jersey, you do not need a medical prescription to receive physical therapy. If you are experiencing shoulder pain lasting longer than two weeks, you should consider calling your doctor of physical therapy to schedule an examination.


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