How to Heal a Full Rotator Cuff Tear

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Healing the scar from a surgery will take a long time, but healing the muscle will take even longer.
Healing the scar from a surgery will take a long time, but healing the muscle will take even longer. (Image: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/722933)

Some rotator cuff tears require surgery to help them completely heal, while other tears will be overcompensated by the surrounding muscles. Full rotator cuff tears (entire tears through the ligament) most likely will require surgery. In most cases, it's easier to heal the rotator cuff if the surgery takes place within three months of the initial injury.

Things You'll Need

  • Orthopedic specialist
  • Immobilizer/sling
  • Physical therapist

Find an orthopedic specialist to look at your shoulder and find out exactly what's wrong. An MRI and an X-ray should be performed to determine whether you have a torn rotator cuff and the severity of the tear.

Have surgery to repair the rotator cuff tear, if your doctor determines you need it. The severity of the tear will dictate how much your doctor will be able to fix.

Wear an immobilizer or a sling for a couple of weeks to keep the shoulder in one position. This will allow your body to heal the affected shoulder without the risk of additional injury to the surgical site from movement. Your doctor will provide additional information about how to wear the sling and when you can remove it.

Begin physical therapy as soon as possible after your surgery. This will keep your shoulder from freezing, which would limit movement. Physical therapy will begin slowly, working to stretch your shoulder. It will progress as your shoulder allows, until you regain full range of motion and strength.

Start a weight-training program to strengthen your shoulder complex. Do this at the discretion of your physical therapist, as your shoulder must be completely healed before you can additional weight training to your workout/rehab program.

Tips & Warnings

  • See a doctor as soon as possible following your initial injury. Rotator cuff tear injuries are much more likely to heal properly if you get surgery as soon as possible.
  • Don't continue to use the injured shoulder if it hurts. Find an orthopedic specialist who can check your shoulder and determine the extent of your injury.

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