Rotator Cuff Tear and Repair

Unfortunately, the shoulder can be a common site for injuries and may include your rotator cuff. The rotator cuff is a group of 4 muscles that work to stabilize your shoulder. These muscles include the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis. As mentioned, the main purpose of these muscles is to keep the shoulder feeling stable when you use your arm for activities such as reaching, lifting, and/or throwing.

An injury to your rotator cuff should not be ignored. Physical therapy can serve as a conservative approach for individuals who have minimal damage, partial incomplete tears, or individuals who are not appropriate for surgery for other medical reasons.

Undergoing surgery for a rotator cuff injury? Physical therapy is helpful before and after your surgery.

Physical therapy before surgery is called Prehabilitation or “Pre-hab”. Pre-hab helps to improve strength and range of motion prior to surgery so that your recovery is better after surgery.

Rotator cuff repair surgery is designed to repair the torn muscle(s) with the goal to help improve pain and restore function. After surgery, there is usually a period of immobility (not moving the repaired area) to allow for healing. The surgeon will likely put your arm in a sling for a specified period of time.

Physical therapy is critical after surgery for maximizing your function and minimizing your pain. Many surgeons have your physical therapist follow a specific protocol that helps guide your treatment plan. Early in your treatment, your physical therapist will help to improve your range of motion and decrease your pain. Once your range of motion has improved, the focus will then shift to improving your strength and function so that you are able to return to normal activities, work and/or sports.

Treatment options before or after surgery may include:

  • Pain relieving modalities (cold/hot pack, ultrasound, iontophoresis, electrical stimulation)
  • Manual therapy
  • Trigger point dry needling
  • Cupping
  • Strengthening and stretching exercises
  • Functional activities
  • Return to sport exercises and activities
  • Kinesiotape/sport taping