Many patients visit their doctor for a shoulder injury and learn that they have a rotator cuff tear, but hesitate to go ahead with surgery to repair it.
Your orthopedist will often recommend physical therapy for tears that are not too severe, but conservative treatments may have their limits. Patients who continue to do overhead work or keep up an active lifestyle may end up worsening their rotator cuff tear and putting up with months of pain and discomfort.
However, repairing a mild rotator cuff tear has become a very sophisticated surgical procedure. For tears that are not too large and complex, rotator cuff correction can be done arthroscopically. This means that the surgery is done with tiny instruments and an arthroscope, which requires only very small incisions in your shoulder. This is an outpatient procedure that greatly reduces recovery time and other risks that come along with open surgery.
For complete tears, your orthopedic surgeon will use the small instruments to reattach the torn tendon to the head of your humerus, or upper arm bone, and stitch together the ruptured tendon if necessary. Partial tears may only require your orthopedist to trim and smooth the damaged parts of the tendon so as to eliminate the irritation they cause surrounding tissues and leave healthy tissue intact. It is important to choose an experienced orthopedic surgeon, like Dr. Leon E. Popovitz, who specializes in shoulder injuries and is well acquainted with the repairing the joint in all conditions.
While arthroscopic surgery is the least invasive method of correcting a rotator cuff tear, there may be some pain after your surgery. Medication can help you get through the first couple of days and begin physical therapy. Even with a reduced recovery time, exercising your shoulder after a procedure is essential for regaining your range of motion and then your strength. The vast majority of patients who undergo arthroscopic surgery for a rotator cuff repair are able to return to the sports and activities they love without constant pain or fear of worsening their shoulder condition.
Without arthroscopic surgery, you run the risk of suffering even more debilitating tears to your rotator cuff, especially those who use their shoulders actively. If physical therapy is not helping to relieve your pain, your rotator cuff tear could be causing other tissues in the area to tear or speeding the onset of osteoarthritis in your shoulder. If your orthopedist suggests arthroscopic surgery, undergoing the procedure sooner rather than later could mean returning to your active lifestyle with less pain, recovery time, and risk of future injury.
Dr. Leon E. Popovitz is an orthopedic surgeon in New York City who specializes in arthroscopic surgery of the shoulder and knee. As founder of NY Bone and Joint Specialists, Dr. Popovitz has had years of experience healing athletes from NYC and around the world. He and his team of expert orthopedists and pain management specialists are New York’s authority of sports injuries and successful, cutting edge, orthopedic surgery.