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Can Rotator Cuff Tears Heal Without Surgery?

October 25, 2019

Just say the words “rotator cuff tear,” and most people immediately think that surgery is inevitable. Research is showing that this may not be the case. Conservative care has been shown to be just as effective as arthroscopic repair for full and partial rotator cuff tears. A physical therapist can help patients improve range of motion, improve strength, decrease pain, and most importantly, improve function of the shoulder so that the patients can return to the activities they value most in life. The American Journal of Sports Medicine published a review of all the studies that looked at the natural course of recovery from rotator cuff tears, and found that these injuries recover well whether treated with or without surgery. Physical therapy can serve as a more cost-effective and non-invasive way to help heal rotator cuff issues.  Physical therapists communicate with the patients’ physicians to make sure they are aware of treatment progress and recovery status. In the majority of injuries, there is no need to proceed with invasive surgery and its inherent risks before attempting more conservative physical therapy. The physical therapist will refer for surgery if indicated, but frequently can help patients avoid surgery.


The information contained in this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, care, or treatment. Always consult a qualified healthcare provider for any questions regarding any possible medical condition.

Mark Kargela, D.P.T., PT, OCS, FAAOMPT, is a Clinical Assistant Professor for the Physical Therapy Institute at Midwestern University in Glendale, Arizona, where he supervises Midwestern Physical Therapy students in their clinical rotation practice. The Physical Therapy Institute utilizes the latest technology and research to evaluate and treat a wide range of orthopedic and chronic pain conditions for both children and adults, at affordable prices. For more information, visit www.mwuclinics.com or call the Downers Grove, Illinois clinic at 630-743-4500 or the Glendale, Arizona clinic at 623-537-6000 to schedule an appointment.

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