Peter Hibberd, M.D., is a doctor whose advice is based on more than 28 years of hospital outpatient and inpatient experience. He is an experienced emergency medicine physician, surgeon, and consultant. Dr. Hibberd is certified by the American Board of Emergency Medicine. He is also a fellow and active member of the American Academy of Family Physicians, an active member of the American College of Emergency Physicians, and a member and fellow of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine. Dr. Hibberd has earned numerous national and international professional certifications, memberships, and awards.

Can Exercises Help My Torn Rotator Cuff?

Wednesday, 10 Apr 2013 12:16 PM

By Peter Hibberd, M.D.

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Question: It have a torn rotator cuff and my doctor suggests I do shoulder exercises. But does that really make sense if I have a tear?

Dr. Hibberd’s answer:
 
A torn rotator cuff was often resolved only by surgery in the past, but with the advent of MRI imaging, we now identify more minor tears that do not need surgery to heal. Some tears are too large to be managed without surgery, but conservative management can help resolve many rotator cuff tears.
 
The healing is easily observed by MRI imaging, but it is very important to prevent excessive loading until healing has progressed. Heavy exercises are usually discouraged, but range-of-motion exercises are very important to healing. When healing has progressed enough, active shoulder exercises are then added. Your exercise routine should be guided and monitored by a physical therapist under the direction of your orthopedist or treating physician to avoid overstressing your shoulder.
 
Failure to involve a physical therapist in your rehab program has created reasonable doubts and questions in your mind. You need supervision and guidance, at least initially, to understand how much and how quickly you can advance your exercise.
 
Early exercise equals faster recovery, but the program needs to be tailored to your age, and both the degree and location of your rotator cuff tear. Ask for a referral to a physical therapist experienced in rotator cuff rehab cases to help you with your physician-directed rehab program. Hopefully, you will see equivalent results to surgical management with a sensible shoulder rehabilitation program.
 
Remember that surgery has its place and in your case, with the support of your orthopedic specialist, it can be an option later if results with physical rehab are not proceeding as expected.

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Dr. Hibberd's advice is based on more than 28 years of hospital work in emergency medicine and surgery.
 
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