Will I have to choose between rotator cuff surgery or physical therapy?

Rotator Cuff Surgery or Physical Therapy

Shoulder pain is annoying and painful. It can disrupt your entire life. According to a study, nearly 70% of people will deal with some sort of shoulder pain at some point in their lives. If you deal with pain from a torn rotator cuff, you may be wondering if you’re going to have to choose between surgery or physical therapy. The good news is that you have options for finding relief from your shoulder pain. 

Rotator cuff surgery or physical therapy

You may think it’s as easy as choosing rotator cuff surgery or physical therapy. But, for the most part, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. Your treatment track will depend greatly on the severity of your injury and how you were injured. You’ll find that it’s not necessarily an either/or decision when it comes to rotator cuff surgery or physical therapy. Here are some things to consider when weighing your options of rotator cuff surgery or physical therapy:

  • If you have a severely torn rotator cuff or have experienced severe trauma to your joint, your physician may recommend surgery for you right off the bat. Why? Because unless the injury is minor, physical therapy doesn’t heal a torn rotator cuff. It can, however, help you heal after you have surgery. 
  • When debating physical therapy or rotator cuff surgery, keep in mind the type of tear you have. If you have a small tear (less than 3 cm) or if the pain is not severe, physical therapy may be the best way for you to start your healing. If your pain can be managed with physical therapy, then surgery may be prolonged.
  • You may be a candidate for rotator cuff surgery if you have experienced prolonged symptoms such as a pinched nerve in your shoulder, permanent stiffness or loss of strength in your arm.
  • In most cases, rotator cuff surgery is done in a minimally invasive way, using arthroscopic surgery. Nationally, nearly 2 million receive treatment for rotator cuff pain each year, sometimes leading to surgery. 
  • Partaking in physical therapy after you have rotator cuff surgery can benefit your recovery. 

The path to recovery is not always straight; sometimes it’s more like a sandwich — begin with physical therapy if your symptoms are mild, progress to surgery (if needed), and end with physical therapy after surgery to heal properly. Regardless of whether you have surgery to heal your rotator cuff, physical therapy is a great option for helping you along your journey. 

You can request a free screening to find out how physical therapy can help you if you’ve injured your rotator cuff. Our expert physical therapists at Whatcom Physical Therapy are here to help. Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.