If you have a rotator cuff injury, your doctor might recommend surgery if your tendon doesn't heal on its own. Tendon injuries sometimes heal with rest, anti-inflammatory medication, and physical therapy. If you continue to have pain or limited range of motion in your shoulder, surgery might be necessary. Here's a look at the two basic types of rotator cuff surgery.
Open surgery is done when you have a bad tear or if the tear is complicated and the doctor needs to move your muscle out of the way to repair the tendon. This involves making a large incision in your shoulder so the tissues can be opened up. This allows your doctor to manipulate your muscles and tendons more easily and he or she can also get a good view of the problem. Open surgery is reserved for more complex injuries because it has a longer recovery time than the other surgical option due to the larger incision. During this surgery, your doctor might anchor the tendon back to your bone to hold it in place. Damaged tissue will also be removed so that the tendon can heal.
Arthroscopic Rotator Cuff Surgery
Arthroscopic surgery is usually done as long as you're a good candidate for the procedure. With this, the surgeon makes tiny incisions which heal quickly. A scope is placed through one incision to view the shoulder tissues and joint. The video images are displayed on a screen that the doctor watches while performing the surgery. Surgical instruments are placed into the other incisions that can trim away damaged tendon tissue and apply stitches if necessary. Although this type of surgery heals quicker, you'll still experience pain afterward that can be managed with medication.
Recovery From Shoulder Surgery
Recovery from both types of surgeries takes several weeks. For the first few weeks, your arm will probably be in a sling so your shoulder can stay immobile. When you've healed sufficiently, your doctor will start you on physical therapy. The exercises will be gentle at first and performed by the therapist. Your arm may be rotated in slow circles so that you regain range of motion in your shoulder. The therapist will do other stretching and movement exercises without you having to exert yourself.
After a few weeks of the passive exercises, you'll begin working out your shoulder on your own. Your muscles will be weak at first due to the long period of inactivity. You'll start off slow and gradually build the intensity of the exercises, so your shoulder regains its normal strength and range of motion.
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