Physical Therapy for Rotator Cuff Tears

Not everyone who has a rotator cuff tear requires surgery. Your doctor may prescribe physical therapy as a conservative measure in order to reduce your pain and strengthen the rotator cuff and surrounding muscles.

In this situation, physical therapy will usually last at least 4-6 weeks with visits 2-3x a week. The supervising Physical Therapist will perform a detailed evaluation to assess your shoulder pain, range of motion, strength, and activity limitations. They will then develop a plan of care specifically to address your deficits. Each PT treatment session will likely include:

    • A moist hot pack to warm up your muscles before you begin exercises
    • Therapeutic exercises to strengthen your rotator cuff muscles and improve the stability of your scapula.
    • Manual treatment performed by the PT or PTA including different techniques to restore full shoulder motion and soft tissue work to address any tightness of trigger points within your shoulder musculature.
    • Electrotherapy with Cold Pack – use of a TENS unit or Interferential current in combination with an ice pack to reduce pain, soreness, and inflammation.

If your rotator cuff tear requires surgery, your physical therapy treatment may look slightly different, especially in the early phases after surgery. Every patient will vary slightly depending on the extent of surgical repair required, but in general the recovery process will look something like this:

    • Early Phase (4-6 weeks): Typically after surgery you will have to keep your shoulder in an immobilizer, or sling, in order to avoid actively using your arm muscles and allow for tissue healing. Physical therapy treatment will focus on exercises that allow you to passively move your shoulder joint without activating the muscles. Your physical therapist will perform PROM, passive range of motion, to restore your shoulder’s range of motion.
    • Active Assisted Phase (2-3 weeks): During this phase you will begin to gently activate your shoulder muscles. Exercises during this stage include use of your non-surgery arm or different tools to aid in moving the affected arm. Your therapist will continue to perform manual treatment to reduce pain and improve your shoulder’s motion.
    • Active Motion/Strengthening phase (6 weeks +): During this stage of rehab you will be able to start actively engaging your arm muscles to move your shoulder. Exercises will slowly progress to start focusing on restoring strength and improving scapular stability. Exercises may also become more specific to your level of activity or recreational hobbies during this phase. Your physical therapist will perform manual treatment as needed to address any soft tissue dysfunction and fully restore your shoulder’s range of motion.

If you are experiencing any kind of shoulder pain or have been diagnosed with a Rotator Cuff Tear, contact us for a free consultation.  To request an appointment, click here, or call directly to one of our three locations during regular business hours:

Cool Springs: 615-224-9810
Shelbyville: 931-684-0027
Spring Hill: 931-489-2022

Disclaimer:  The information in this blog is intended to be informational only, and is not intended to be used in lieu of medical care.  Consult a doctor or a physical therapist before attempting treatment on your own.

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