Physical Therapy Can Reduce the Need for Surgery For People With Rotator Cuff Tears

If you suffer from chronic shoulder pain as a result of a rotator cuff tear, there’s good news. A new study presented at the American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons Annual Meeting reveals that patients who received rehabilitation therapy did not require follow-up surgery.

The study was conducted by John E. Kuhn, MD, MS, and his colleagues. The team tracked the progress of 433 patients who suffered from atraumatic full-thickness rotator cuff tears for five years. The patients all participated in a physical therapy program that was designed by the doctor and his research team. At the end of the therapy, patients could specify that they were either cured with no follow-up surgery, improved with continued assessment after six weeks or not improved and still planning on having surgery.

The results are promising; only 24-percent of patients elected to have follow-up surgery. The study noted that patient expectation was the greatest factor that influenced their success.

Many people worry that physical therapy won’t be able to cure them of pain they’ve endured for years. As a result, they either don’t go at all or fail to receive the level of relief they could if they were more optimistic.

Dr. Kuhn said that patients with rotator cuff tears who elected to have surgery did so within the first 12 weeks of physical therapy. “Workers’ compensation seemed to be statistically significant, and the size of the tears started to show a statistically significant influence on decisions for surgery at 5 years,” Dr. Kuhn explained.

The research demonstrates the importance of participation and engagement in physical therapy. It’s important to be present and communicative with your therapist. Perhaps you tried rehabilitation programs in the past and they didn’t bring the results you hoped for. Even if you’ve suffered for years, shoulder pain can be relieved with physical therapy, and it’s a great alternative to expensive surgeries.