Rotator Cuff Injuries: 6 Questions Patients Frequently Ask

1. What is the rotator cuff?

The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis, and teres minor) that originate on the scapula (shoulder blade) and then attach to the top of the humerus (upper bone of the arm). These four muscle help to initiate and coordinate the motion of the shoulder.

2. Do all rotator cuff injuries need surgery?

No, the vast majority of rotator cuff injuries can be treated with non-operative modalities such as therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, and injections

3. Do I need an MRI?

It depends. Most patients with a suspected rotator cuff injury on their first visit do not need an MRI. Your Westchester orthopedic surgeon can determine by your physical exam if an MRI is needed.

4. What kind of rotator cuff injury may require surgery?

If you have not improved after a prolonged course of therapy, and now you have obtained an MRI of your shoulder. If your rotator cuff tear is “full thickness.” Then usually this will require surgery.

5. Do I need a big open surgery to fix my rotator cuff?

No. In my practice all rotator cuff surgery is done arthroscopically. This means that a camera is used to see inside the shoulder and 3-4 small poke holes are made so small instruments can fit though and the repair can be performed with minimally invasive techniques.

6. How long will it take for me to recover from my rotator cuff surgery?

This answer is somewhat variable, but depending on the size of you tear you may not regain full function for up to 6 months. However you will be in a sling for 4-6 weeks and begin therapy immediately. If your work is not labor intensive you can expect to be back at work within 1-2 weeks in a sling.

7. What happens if I don’t have surgery on my rotator cuff?

If you have a rotator cuff tear that is painful, and you have already gone through physical therapy, and had injections, then without surgery your shoulder will continue to hurt. Furthermore, if you have a large tear in the rotator cuff, your shoulder can begin to loose motion overtime as the nonfunctional tendons of the rotator cuff begin to atrophy.

Eventually the rotator cuff will become unable to repair and in order to restore function a replacement may be needed.

If you are suffering from a rotator cuff injury, visit the experienced orthopedic surgeons at Westchester Sport and Spine by scheduling an appointment at (914) 358-9700.

Dr. Michael Gott is a Westchester orthopedic surgeon who is fellowship trained in sports medicine. He has also been an active member of the National Ski Patrol as well as a Member of the Windham Mountain Ski Patrol for 18 years.