Rotator Cuff tears are extremely common injuries. Tears come in two types: partial thickness and full thickness. Most partial thickness tears can be treated nonoperatively with anti-inflammatory medications (advil, alieve, etc) or cortisone injections in conjunction with a course of physical therapy. About 80% of patients will get better with this treatment. Those who fail nonoperative therapy may be candidates for arthroscopic partial thickness rotator cuff repair or sub-acromial decompression. Dr. Walker will discuss your options with you and help you make the best decision for your treatment.
Rotator Cuff Tear
Full thickness rotator cuff tears, on the other hand, do not heal on their own and tend to get larger over time; furthermore, the muscles of the rotator cuff can wither away if they are not repaired in a timely manner. Because of this, we recommend repair of full thickness rotator cuff tears. Literature on rotator cuff tears shows that the best results of rotator cuff repair surgery happen when the cuff is repaired within four weeks of the tear. Most of these surgeries can be done arthroscopically, but occasionally they require an open repair technique. Even though the surgery is usually arthroscopic and done on an outpatient basis, the recovery time for rotator cuff repairs can be very long.
It takes 3 months for the rotator cuff tendon to heal back to your bone, so the repair needs to be protected during this time. Usually, Dr. Walker will keep you in a sling for the first six weeks after surgery and teach you some gentle stretching exercises during this time. After this, regaining your motion will be the top priority; this can take three months or more. Full strength and motion of the shoulder can take up to one year after the surgery.
Some rotator cuff tears cannot be repaired for various reasons. In these cases Dr. Walker will discuss further treatment options with you.