I‘ve Injured My Rotator Cuff; Now What?

I‘ve Injured My Rotator Cuff; Now What?

Have you injured your rotator cuff from a fall, sports injury, or accident that caused shoulder trauma? How long will it take to heal? Will you need surgery? Our board-certified orthopedic surgeons at Georgia Hand, Shoulder & Elbow in Atlanta, Marietta, and Watkinsville, Georgia, are the experts you want to see if you have a shoulder problem. 

Our physicians get to the root of your shoulder issue quickly through physical tests of your ability to move your arm, along with X-rays, ultrasound and possibly an MRI. An X-ray won’t show damaged tissue, but it will show whether you have a bone spur that could be pressing on the rotator cuff, causing a partial or complete tear. A complete tear of the rotator cuff means that the tendon has completely detached from the bone. 

If you’re an athlete who uses an overhead motion in your sport (think tennis, baseball, and swimming) or if you use repetitive motions of your arms for work, the constant wear and tear on your shoulder could eventually result in a complete tear. 

If you have shoulder pain, seek treatment right away. An untreated rotator cuff injury can result in chronic shoulder pain. 

Treatment for rotator cuff injuries 

Your treatment for the rotator cuff depends on the severity of your injury. Tests show if the cuff, which is a group of muscles and tendons in your shoulder, has been stretched too far or whether you have a partial tear or complete tear. 

Many rotator cuff injuries can be treated conservatively without surgery. Your doctor advises you on the type of treatment that is going to be effective for you. Following are standard treatments for rotator cuff injuries

Rest and ice or heat

You’ll need to rest the arm to avoid further injury. You’re probably already taking over-the-counter pain medication. Your doctor advises you whether applying ice or heat a few times a day is appropriate. If it hurts to move your arm at all, your doctor prescribes a sling to protect it and keep it in a resting position all day. 


If you’re in a significant amount of pain but your doctor thinks you won’t need surgery, he can give you a cortisone shot. He advises you whether the injection is the best course of action. 

Physical therapy  

Once your inflammation has calmed down, your doctor prescribes physical therapy. Gentle exercises help you regain range of motion. They also help strengthen the muscles of the rotator cuff, which helps protect it. If you have surgery, you’ll be in physical therapy at some point after the operation to regain movement and function. 


If you’ve torn a tendon, you’ll need surgery if it’s a complete tear. If it’s a partial tear, you may need surgery if you still have pain after physical therapy or if your shoulder is still weak and you need to use your arm for work or a sport. 

Our orthopedic surgeons specialize in shoulder procedures. We perform arthroscopic tendon repair to reconnect your torn tendon to the bone. During this minimally invasive operation, your surgeon makes a few small incisions and views the area through a tiny camera inserted into the target area; he uses small tools to make the repair. If you have a partial tear, your surgeon only needs to trim away the uneven edges of tissue. 

You may have also developed a bone spur on your rotator cuff that may be compressing the tendon, ligaments, or nerves. Your doctor removes the bone spur during the operation.   

Rotator cuff surgery takes patience. After surgery, you’ll wear a sling for four to six weeks to protect your arm. A few weeks after surgery, you’ll start physical therapy. Complete recovery takes three to six months.

Call Georgia Hand, Shoulder & Elbow or book an appointment online today for expert treatment of rotator cuff injuries and other musculoskeletal problems. 

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