There are two types of rotator cuff tears:
- Partial, which is a tear that doesn't completely sever the tendon. This type of injury may respond well to nonsurgical treatments. If it does not, surgery may be done.
- Full thickness tears, in which the tendon is torn into two pieces. This type of tear requires surgery to repair.
The specific treatment your doctor uses will depend on your injury, the amount of pain you are having and your ability move and use your arm.
Usually the first approach to treatment is conservative treatment - care that does not involve surgery. This type of treatment involves resting your arm and shoulder, taking drugs to reduce the swelling and help control pain, physical therapy or corticosteroid injections can help reduce pain but cannot be repeated frequently because they can also weaken the tendon.
Ultrasound can enhance the ability of drugs that are applied to the surface of your body. It also has warming effects that may help healing.
There are several surgical options to treat rotator cuff tears, depending on the size, depth, and location of the tear. If other problems with the shoulder are discovered during the surgery, they will be corrected as well.
Arthroscopy, in which miniature instruments are inserted into small incisions, can be used to remove bone spurs or inflammatory portions of muscle and to repair lesser tears.
A mini-open repair that combines arthroscopy and a small incision can be used to treat full-thickness tears.
Open surgery may be required in more severe cases to repair the injured tendon. Sometimes a tissue transfer or a tendon graft is used.
Shoulder joint replacement is also an option for extreme cases.
It takes some time to recover from shoulder surgery. Full functioning may not return for six months or more. Your doctor will recommend a program of exercises to strengthen and restore motion, including physical therapy. Although every case is unique, surgery can relieve pain for most people and rehabilitation can restore functional range of motion.