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When Surgery for a rotator cuff tear is appropriate

Expert Advice from a Shoulder Injury Doctor San Francisco Practice

The rotator cuff is the group of muscles and tendons responsible for moving and supporting your arm where it meets your shoulder. Whether you hurt yourself in baseball practice or wrenched your arm in a car crash, appreciate this: most of the time, a torn rotator cuff does not require surgery. A shoulder injury specialist will often just recommend that patients rest and engage in moderate physical therapy. Sometimes, though, surgery is unavoidable.


A shoulder pain management doctor will first evaluate the circumstances surrounding your injury to determine whether you’ll need surgery or whether another form of treatment will suffice.

If a patient who tears a rotator cuff is young, and he or she experienced the tear during the course of physical activity, the patient will likely be a good candidate for surgery. An orthopedic doctor who suspects that the injury will worsen over time might also recommend surgery to correct the issue. It normally takes 3–6 months of chronic pain before a shoulder doctor will recommend surgery in lieu of continued physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medications.

For patients that fail to respond to treatment with physical therapy, surgery may be necessary. To minimize pain and scar tissue, Dr. Halbrecht utilizes minimally invasive techniques to repair the rotator cuff and begins accelerated therapy with range of motion starting the day after surgery.

Tears can leave the tendons in the rotator cuff frayed and difficult to hold together, even with the assistance of surgery. The surgery should always be a last resort when it comes to repairing a rotator cuff injury, but it can be career-saving in severe cases.

Sports Medicine Bay Area Institute is Here to Help

If you or a loved one needs insight from a shoulder doctor into how to address a painful rotator cuff caused by a sports injury, motor vehicle crash, or work accident, call the team at IASM at 415-923-0944 for a free consultation.

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