Your shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint made up of three dominant bones—the humerus, clavicle and scapula. The rotator cuff consists of a group of four tendons and associated muscles that collectively work to keep the arm bone within the socket of your shoulder bladewhile allowing your arm to raise and rotate.

Although damage to the rotator cuff may indicate a need for surgery in some cases, recent studies suggest that a physical therapy rehabilitation program can be as effective as surgery. Initial treatment of rotator cuff injury focuses on reducing inflammation through anti-inflammatory medications and strengthening exercises. The more the inflammation is reduced, the better a person’s capacity to perform strengthening and stretching exercises.

Physical therapy encourages correct movement to stimulate cells to lay down collagen along the lines of stress to form healthy, strong tendons, thus speeding up recovery. An effective rehabilitation program may include

  • stretches to encourage comfortable movement
  • exercises that isolate each muscle group and selectively train that muscle
  • exercises that enhance movement and control of the scapula
  • passive exercises, performed multipletimes a day with the help of a therapist, the other arm or a machine, that move the joint through its range of motion (ROM)
  • ROM exercises with light weight
  • exercises that flex and extend the elbow, wrist and hand

Physical therapy plays an important role in the treatment of a damaged rotator cuff. By following a protocol that includes warming up, stretching and strengthening, postworkout icing, and anti-inflammatory medications, many people with rotator cuff injuries can attain comparable preinjury strength and motion without surgery.  Many of our local surgeons in the Paramus and Ridgewood area are trying more conservative approaches to treatment of rotator cuff tears with the research indicating many can respond to physical therapy depending on the demands of the individual.