Question: It have a torn rotator cuff and my doctor suggests I do shoulder exercises. But does that really make sense if I have a tear?
Dr. Hibberd’s answer:
A torn rotator cuff was often resolved only by surgery in the past, but with the advent of MRI imaging, we now identify more minor tears that do not need surgery to heal. Some tears are too large to be managed without surgery, but conservative management can help resolve many rotator cuff tears.
The healing is easily observed by MRI imaging, but it is very important to prevent excessive loading until healing has progressed. Heavy exercises are usually discouraged, but range-of-motion exercises are very important to healing. When healing has progressed enough, active shoulder exercises are then added. Your exercise routine should be guided and monitored by a physical therapist under the direction of your orthopedist or treating physician to avoid overstressing your shoulder.
Failure to involve a physical therapist in your rehab program has created reasonable doubts and questions in your mind. You need supervision and guidance, at least initially, to understand how much and how quickly you can advance your exercise.
Early exercise equals faster recovery, but the program needs to be tailored to your age, and both the degree and location of your rotator cuff tear. Ask for a referral to a physical therapist experienced in rotator cuff rehab cases to help you with your physician-directed rehab program. Hopefully, you will see equivalent results to surgical management with a sensible shoulder rehabilitation program.
Remember that surgery has its place and in your case, with the support of your orthopedic specialist, it can be an option later if results with physical rehab are not proceeding as expected.
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