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Keeping the Fat Out of Your Rotator Cuff

For most of us, the idea of “fighting fat” is nothing new. But fat is not just an enemy of your waistline. It’s an enemy of your muscles, too—especially when you are recovering from rotator cuff surgery. When the rotator cuff tendon is torn, a gap between the tendon and bones is formed. Your body tries to fix this by spontaneously generating tissue to fill the gap; unfortunately, it does this with fatty tissue instead of muscle.
The more fatty infiltrate you have, the harder it will be for you to heal after surgery. Several studies have found that the longer the time between a tendon tear and surgery, the higher the risk that substantial fatty infiltrate will affect your recovery. And fatty infiltration has been associated with increasing age, size of the tear, the degree of tendon retraction, the number of tendons involved and traumatic tears.
If the damage has already been done, the only way to combat the negative effects is with physical therapy. Preoperatively, a therapeutic exercise program can minimize pain and swelling, reduce the risk of further injury and strengthen muscle around the infiltrate so that your shoulder can heal more effectively.
After surgery, a physical therapy rehabilitation program can also enhance the results of your surgical procedure, regardless of the degree of fatty infiltration.

After surgery, an individualized exercise program can help:

  • relieve pain and swelling
  • minimize pain and injury recurrence
  • develop a progressive strength-training routine
  •  teach techniques you can perform at home

We can work with your surgeon if a substantial amount of fatty infiltrate has been found in your shoulder. We can design a postoperative program to reduce the discomfort and functional limitations caused by the invasion of fatty tissue.

While fatty infiltration is irreversible and progressive if left untreated, under our professional guidance an exercise program can minimize pain and enhance your return to function. Think of it this way: while we cannot get the fat to move out of your injured rotator cuff, we can at least ensure that it does not invite its friends to come over and stay!


Apex Orthopedic Rehabilitation in Paramus, NJ provides orthopedic and sports physical therapy services for the greater Ridgewood, Paramus, and Bergen County region. This blog is intended for informational purposes only and should not be used for diagnostic or prescriptive purposes. The views expressed here are the author’s views and should be taken as suggestions. Always consult your doctor or healthcare practitioner before engaging in a physical therapy or rehabilitative program.

Tom Willemann

Tom Willemann

Tom Willemann is a premier physical therapist based out of Bergen County, New Jersey. He holds an MS in physical therapy from the University of Miami, is credentialed in the world-renowned McKenzie Method of Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy (MDT), and holds an OCS (Orthopedic Clinical Specialist) certification. As of 2018, there are approximately 14,000 ABPTS certified specialists in the nation and less than 400 of them are located in the state of New Jersey. Tom is the owner and director of Apex Orthopedic Rehabilitation in Paramus. He opened the clinic, which specializes in spine and sports injury prevention, in 2004 after many years of experience in the field. Tom’s caring interest in others and his strong belief in continuity of care, combined with his clinic’s ability to find solutions for the most difficult orthopedic problems, have earned Apex Orthopedic Rehabilitation its excellent reputation with patients and medical professionals in northeastern New Jersey and beyond. A true “family man,” Tom takes pride in his clinic’s warm and welcoming environment.
Tom Willemann

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