Rotator Cuff Surgery

rotator cuff

Treatment for Rotator Cuff Injuries

Rotator Cuff Surgery

Shoulder injuries are incredibly common, and as many as 50-70% of patients will experience some kind of shoulder problem during their lifetime. However, shoulder injuries are often very treatable, with many patients making full recoveries. Rotator cuff injuries are some of the most common shoulder injuries and can take different forms, but typically result in pain and inflammation in the shoulder. While these injuries do not often require surgery, rotator cuff surgery can help relieve pain and increase a person’s quality of life. Over time, many surgical procedures have become less invasive and more effective, helping many patients to recover quickly with minimal side effects. Rotator cuff injuries are often difficult to deal with for patients with active lifestyles, and surgery can help many patients get back to normal functionality quickly, with less pain.


The rotator cuff is a band of muscles and tendons that supports the shoulder and enables it to move normally. The muscles stretch from the shoulder blade to the top of the upper arm bone (humerus) to coordinate the shoulder joint’s movement. The rotator cuff also provides the necessary stability for the bones of the shoulder joint. In some cases, the rotator cuff can become injured from overuse or an accidental injury. Rotator cuff injuries can seriously interfere with the ability to move the shoulder, often leading to pain, stiffness, and swelling. Luckily, many rotator cuff injuries can be treated with prompt medical attention.

Symptoms of Rotator Cuff Injuries

Some of the most common symptoms associated with rotator cuff injuries or shoulder issues are pain in the shoulder (especially during activities that strain the rotator cuff like lifting overhead and at night or during sleep), tenderness, weakness in the shoulder, and limited range of motion. Patients may also experience difficulty moving the affected shoulder for normal tasks. However, some rotator cuff injuries are not painful, and patients only experience stiffness or other symptoms. Patients that have jobs where they commonly reach over their heads like painters and carpenters are more likely to have rotator cuff injuries, which can make it difficult for them to do their jobs. This can be frustrating and difficult to deal with. These injuries do worsen with time, and any of these symptoms might be signs that your rotator cuff has been damaged and requires medical treatment to restore functionality. 

Treatment for Rotator Cuff Injuries

Not all rotator cuff injuries require surgery, so there are some less invasive treatments that many doctors will try before recommending surgery. These include physical therapy, medications, wearing a sling or other assistive device, and more. However, in more severe cases, surgery may be necessary to treat the injury. There are several different surgeries that a doctor might recommend for rotator cuff injuries. Any doctor will try to recommend the least invasive surgery first, to try to aid in recovery and long-term care. 

Tendon Repair

This is the most common surgery to repair a rotator cuff injury. The torn tendon may not be able to heal on its own, so this surgery reconnects the damaged tendon. This procedure can either be performed arthroscopically through a small incision or in an open surgery where a larger incision is needed. This surgery may be more complicated in cases where the tendon did not have a clean break, or in older patients where the tendon may have degenerated over time. If there are other soft tissue tears, bone spurs, or other issues in the area, the surgeon may opt to take care of these as well during the surgery. This surgery is often completed in the course of a few hours, and many patients will not have to stay at the hospital overnight. Recovery varies with the severity of the injury and depth of surgical intervention. 

Tendon Transfer

Sometimes, the injury to the tendons of the rotator cuff is too severe to simply reattach to the bone. In this case, tissue from a neighboring tendon may be needed to repair the injury. The most common tendon used for this surgery is from the back, which the doctor will carefully remove and then use to replace the rotator cuff tendon. They will also transfer muscle tissue to help hold the tendon in place. This surgery is more invasive and can take several months to recover. It is rare to perform this surgery, as many patients would not have suitable tendons for transfer if there are issues causing problems with the initially torn tendon as well. An orthopedic specialist will work to develop a treatment plan based on the individual case. 

Recovery After Rotator Cuff Surgery

One of the main reasons that doctors recommend surgical repair of the damaged tendons in the rotator cuff is for pain management, and to restore range of motion. Most patients who have these surgeries report reduced pain and improved shoulder strength and mobility. As with many other surgeries, patient compliance plays an enormous part in the healing process. It is difficult to avoid moving the shoulder. Still, if a patient doesn’t listen to the doctor’s instructions, they can find themselves with complications after the surgery like stiffness, new tears in the tendons, or even nerve injury. Listen to your doctor and surgeon’s advice after your surgery, and you will see the difference in your recovery. Rehabilitation is also a big part of recovery after rotator cuff surgery so that the shoulder can move properly without stiffness. Physical therapy and stretching exercises will help you to heal and regain mobility. 

Treating Rotator Cuff Injuries at OAR

At OAR, our team of orthopaedic specialists and surgeons is well-versed in rotator cuff injuries and prepared to work with you to find the best available treatment. We are committed to helping you get the most out of life with less pain and more freedom. Contact us today to set up an appointment!

Only a doctor can tell you if you have this ailment. This is for informational purposes and should not be used in lieu of a doctor’s opinion.

Contact us today!