Rotator cuff tears can be painful and debilitating, making it difficult to perform everyday activities. After all, you rely on your shoulder for almost everything. In the United States, rotator cuff tears are common, with approximately two million people experiencing one each year. Fortunately, many nonsurgical treatments can help relieve pain and improve function.
Some of the most common conservative treatment options for rotator cuff tears are:
Rest is often the first line of treatment for rotator cuff tears. Depending on the extent of your injury, you may need to rest your shoulder for a few days or weeks. You should avoid any activities that put stress on your shoulder during this time, such as lifting, reaching, or throwing. Forcing your shoulder to move too soon can worsen the injury or cause further complications.
Applying ice to your shoulder can help reduce inflammation and pain. Put ice or a cooling pack on the shoulder for 20 minutes at a time, several times a day. Do not apply ice directly to your skin, so wrap it in a towel or use an ice pack.
Once the initial inflammation from the rotator cuff tear has gone down, you can switch to using heat. The warmth can help relax tight muscles and improve blood flow to the area. Use a heating pad set on low or take warm showers or baths. Be careful not to overdo it, as too much heat can worsen inflammation. It’s best to check in with your doctor on whether cold or heat therapy is best for you as you recover.
Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
Over-the-counter NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen (Aleve), can help reduce inflammation and pain. Follow the directions on the package or speak with your doctor about how much to take. If you’re taking other medications, check with your doctor first, as NSAIDs can interact with some drugs.
If over-the-counter NSAIDs aren’t enough to relieve your pain, your doctor may recommend injections of corticosteroid medication. These injections can help reduce inflammation and pain for several weeks or months at a time.
Corticosteroid injections contain a long-acting local anesthetic, making you feel pain relief for several hours after the administration. You may experience temporary side effects, such as lightheadedness, dizziness, or increased pain immediately after getting it. These side effects usually go away within a day or two.
A physical therapist can teach you exercises that stretch and strengthen the muscles and tendons around your shoulder. These exercises can help improve your range of motion and reduce pain. Your therapist may also use different modalities to help you recover, such as:
Massage therapy can help increase blood flow to your shoulder, aiding in healing and reducing muscle tension and pain.
This therapy uses electrical currents to stimulate the muscles and nerves in your shoulder. This method can help reduce pain and inflammation.
Ultrasound therapy uses sound waves to create heat to relieve inflammation and pain.
Exercise can help improve your range of motion and strengthen the muscles around your shoulder. Your therapist can also recommend exercises to relieve your symptoms and improve your quality of life. They will assist you through various activities, starting with range of motion and stretching movements. As your pain decreases, you will gradually progress to more challenging exercises, like resistance and weight training.
If you’re an athlete, your therapist can help you improve your technique to help you return to your sport safely. They can also advise you on ways to prevent future injuries when you play.
Your physical therapist can teach you about your injury and what you can do to prevent further damage. Some examples may be avoiding activities that stress your shoulder, maintaining good posture, and working out safely.
Rotator Cuff Tear Treatment In Baltimore, MD
Rotator cuff tears can be painful and debilitating. However, many different nonsurgical treatment options can help relieve your symptoms. These treatments include NSAIDs, corticosteroid injections, physical therapy, and more. It is essential to discuss all options with your doctor before beginning any treatment plan.
You can rely on The Centers for Advanced Orthopaedics Orthopaedic Associates of Central Maryland Division for rotator cuff tear treatment in our full-service offices. We have board-certified and fellowship-trained orthopedic doctors specializing in treating patients with orthopedic conditions and injuries. You may call our friendly staff at (410) 644-1880 to learn more about our services. You may also use our convenient appointment request form to book a consultation. We look forward to serving you!