When Not to Have Rotator Cuff Surgery


Rotator Cuff Surgery

Rotator cuff surgery is a common procedure used to repair a torn rotator cuff.

The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint, and it is responsible for keeping the arm bone in the shoulder socket.

When the rotator cuff is torn, it can cause pain, weakness, and limited range of motion in the shoulder.

In this article, I will discuss when not to have rotator cuff surgery.


What Is a Rotator Cuff Tear

A rotator cuff tear is a tear in one or more of the muscles or tendons that make up the rotator cuff.

This can be caused by a sudden injury, such as a fall or lifting a heavy object, or by overuse of the shoulder joint over time.

Type of Injury

Treatment Approach

Rotator Cuff Surgery Cost

Mild Strain Rest, ice, physical therapy $100 – $300
Tendonitis Rest, anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy $200 – $500
Partial Tear Rest, physical therapy, possible corticosteroid injections $500 – $1,000
Full-Thickness Tear Surgery, physical therapy $2,000 – $5,000
Acute Injury Surgery (if severe), rest, physical therapy $1,000 – $7,000
Degenerative Tear Physical therapy, corticosteroid injections $300 – $800
Massive Tear Surgery, physical therapy $5,000 – $10,000
Calcific Tendonitis Rest, anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy $300 – $600
Overuse Injury Rest, physical therapy, lifestyle adjustments $100 – $300
Subacromial Bursitis Rest, anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy $200 – $500

What Causes Rotator Cuff Tears

Rotator cuff tears are often caused by a combination of factors including age-related degeneration, and repetitive movements.

Traumatic injuries, poor posture, muscle imbalances, lifestyle factors, lack of warm-up, and genetic predisposition.

Rotator Cuff Surgery Symptoms

The symptoms of a rotator cuff tear can vary depending on the severity of the tear. Common symptoms include:

  • Pain in the shoulder, especially when lifting the arm
  • Weakness in the shoulder
  • Limited range of motion in the shoulder
  • Clicking or popping sounds when moving the shoulder
  • Shoulder stiffness

Diagnosis of a Rotator Cuff Tear

A rotator cuff tear can be diagnosed through a physical exam, imaging tests such as an MRI or X-ray, and a review of the patient’s medical history.

Treatment Options for a Rotator Cuff Tear

Treatment options for a rotator cuff tear depend on the severity of the tear.

Mild to moderate tears can often be treated with rest, physical therapy, and pain medication. More severe tears may require surgery to repair the damage.

When to Have Rotator Cuff Surgery

Rotator cuff surgery is typically recommended for people with a severe rotator cuff tear that is causing significant pain, weakness, and limited range of motion in the shoulder.

Surgery may also be recommended for people who have not responded to other treatments such as physical therapy and pain medication.

When Not to Have Rotator Cuff Surgery

While cuff surgery can be an effective treatment option for many people, there are situations where surgery may not be necessary.

Some reasons why a person may not need rotator cuff surgery include:

  • The tear is small and does not cause significant pain or a limited range of motion
  • The person is not experiencing any symptoms
  • The person is not physically active and does not require a full range of motion in the shoulder

Rotator Cuff Surgery Recovery

Recovery from rotator cuff surgery can take several months, and it is important to follow the doctor’s instructions for post-operative care.

This may include physical therapy, rest, and pain medication.

Rotator Cuff Surgery Video

Do You Need Effective Non-Surgical Treatment for rotator cuff pain?

There are several non-surgical treatments available for a torn rotator cuff. According to an article in Summa Health, these treatments may include:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen
  • Topical pain-relieving creams
  • Physical therapy
  • Activity modification
  • Rest
  • Pain management techniques such as ice and heat therapy

Rotator Cuff Surgery Risks and Complications

As with any surgery, there are risks and complications associated with cuff surgery. These can include infection, bleeding, nerve damage, and a prolonged recovery period.

Alternatives to Rotator Cuff Surgery

For people who do not require surgery, there are alternative treatment options available. These can include physical therapy, rest, and pain medication.

Rotator Cuff Surgery Success Rate

According to an article on HSS, cuff surgery has a success rate of over 95% for small tears and over 70% for two tendon tears.

A minor rotator cuff tear repaired surgically has a 96.7% chance of healing following surgery.

A study published in PubMed found that 90% of patients were happy with the results of arthroscopic cuff repair at 6 months post-surgery.

Rotator Cuff Surgery Near Me


A rotator cuff can be an effective treatment option for a torn rotator cuff, but it is not always necessary.

In some cases, a person may not require surgery if the tear is small, does not cause significant pain, or has a limited range of motion.

It is important to discuss all treatment options with a doctor to determine the best course of action.

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When Not to Have Rotator Cuff Surgery – FAQs

Is surgery the only solution for rotator cuff injuries?

No, surgery is not the sole solution. Many minor injuries can be effectively managed with non-surgical methods like physical therapy and rest.

What if I don’t experience any symptoms despite a known rotator cuff tear?

If you’re not experiencing pain or limitations in your daily life, surgery might not be necessary.

Are there any age limitations for cuff surgery?

Your overall health, the extent of the injury, and your ability to undergo surgery safely will all be considered.

How long does the recovery process usually take after surgery?

Recovery time varies, but it can take several months to regain full strength and mobility.

Can I choose not to have surgery even if it’s recommended?

If you’re unsure or hesitant about surgery, discussing your concerns with your healthcare provider can help you make an informed choice.

What are the main risks associated with rotator surgery?

Risks include infection, nerve damage, restricted mobility, and the possibility that surgery might not fully resolve the issue.

How effective are non-surgical treatments for rotator cuff injuries?

Non-surgical treatments like physical therapy and rest can be very effective, especially for minor injuries.

Can lifestyle changes help prevent rotator cuff injuries?

Yes, maintaining good posture, avoiding repetitive motions, and staying physically active can help reduce the risk of rotator cuff injuries.

What if I have other health conditions?

Your overall health will be considered when determining if surgery is suitable.

Are there alternative treatments to surgery that I can explore?

Yes, alternatives include physical therapy, medication, and lifestyle adjustments.

What if I’m unsure about the decision to have surgery?

It’s natural to have doubts. Seeking a second opinion and thoroughly discussing your concerns with your doctor can provide more clarity.

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