woman experiencing rotator cuff tear

A rotator cuff tear is a common injury that can occur within your shoulder’s rotator cuff tendons. Generally, this kind of issue occurs due to injury or overuse. While rotator cuff tears are not life-threatening, if you do not seek out medical attention, they can limit your movement and cause chronic pain.

Small to medium-sized rotator cuff tears often heal without surgical intervention when conservative treatments are utilized. However, if non-surgical methods fail to settle your symptoms, your physician may recommend surgery to repair your rotator cuff.

In this post, we’ll discuss some of the conservative treatment approaches that can help your rotator cuff heal without surgery.

How Rotator Cuff Tears Can Affect Your Life

If you are experiencing pain or loss of mobility in your arm or shoulder, you could be suffering from a rotator cuff tear. This injury is non-life-threatening, but it can impact your life in a number of ways:

  • Limited movement and stiffness: You may find that even the smallest arm and shoulder movements, such as brushing your hair or putting on your coat, become difficult and painful.
  • Chronic pain: Pain caused by a rotator cuff tear can range from mild or moderate to severe. Most patients experience pain on or in front of their injured shoulder. However, some pain is felt shooting down the outside of the upper arm. Oftentimes, you’ll experience more pain at night, especially if you lie on your affected shoulder.
  • Swelling: Inflammation and swelling are caused by your body’s natural response to injury. Swelling is often the most common cause of pain in a rotator cuff injury.
  • Cracking sounds: Clicking, popping and cracking sounds when you attempt to move your shoulder are normal side effects of a rotator cuff tear.

Non-Surgical Treatments for Rotator Cuff Tears

While surgery is not always necessary, early treatment for rotator cuff tears is essential. If you delay, the torn tendon may start to retract or pull back toward the other end, which can make healing and even a surgical repair more difficult and less successful. Treatment results for rotator cuff tears have a higher success rate while the injury is still fresh.

At OrthoBethesda, depending on our patient’s individual condition, we strive to focus on non-surgical treatments first, including:

  • Rest: We may recommend refraining from any activities or actions that aggravate your rotator cuff injury.
  • Immobilization: A sling may be prescribed to help protect your shoulder and keep it still, giving the injury the time it needs to heal.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: NSAIDs like ibuprofen and naproxen can reduce swelling and thus help resolve the pain that some patients experience.
  • Physical therapy: A skilled therapist can assist you with a variety of exercises and stretches to help you regain strength in your shoulder muscles and increase your flexibility and range of motion. Your physical therapist can also work out a program to help relieve pain and prevent further injury.
  • Steroid injections: Corticosteroid injections can help improve your painful symptoms, especially while you’re sleeping. The medicine used is an anti-inflammatory that reduces swelling.

Contact OrthoBethesda to Learn About Non-Surgical Treatments for Rotator Cuff Tears

While larger rotator cuff tears or injuries that do not respond to conservative measures may require surgery, we can attempt many non-surgical approaches first and foremost. If you’d like to learn more, contact us to schedule your appointment at our Bethesda, MD, practice.