Treatment

Conservative treatments — such as rest, ice and physical therapy — sometimes are all that's needed to recover from a rotator cuff injury. If your injury is severe and involves a complete tear of the muscle or tendon, you might need surgery.

Injections

If conservative treatments haven't reduced your pain, your doctor might recommend a steroid injection into your shoulder joint, especially if the pain is interfering with your sleep, daily activities or exercise. While such shots are often helpful, they should be used judiciously, as they can contribute to weakening of the tendon.

Therapy

Physical therapy exercises can help restore flexibility and strength to your shoulder after a rotator cuff injury. Sometimes it is possible to eliminate pain and restore function without surgery.

Surgery

Many different types of surgeries are available for rotator cuff injuries, including arthroscopic tendon repair, open tendon repair, bone spur removal, tendon transfer and shoulder replacement.

Arthroscopic tendon repair

In this procedure, surgeons insert a tiny camera (arthroscope) and tools through small incisions to reattach the torn tendon to the bone. Arthroscopic tendon repair can provide restoration of the patient's normal anatomy with a relatively pain-free procedure.

Open tendon repair

In some situations, an open tendon repair may be a better option. In these types of surgeries, your surgeon works through a larger incision to reattach the damaged tendon to the bone. Open tendon repairs typically have a longer recovery time than that seen with more minimally invasive procedures done arthroscopically.

Bone spur removal

If an overgrowth of bone is irritating your rotator cuff, this excess bone can be removed and the damaged portion of the tendon can be smoothed. This procedure is often performed using arthroscopy, where a fiber-optic camera and special tools are inserted through tiny incisions.

Tendon transfer

If the torn tendon is too damaged to be reattached to the arm bone, surgeons may decide to use a nearby tendon as a replacement.

Shoulder replacement

Massive rotator cuff injuries may require shoulder replacement surgery. To improve the artificial joint's stability, an innovative procedure (reverse shoulder arthroplasty) installs the ball part of the artificial joint onto the shoulder blade and the socket part onto the arm bone.