Torn Rotator Cuff: Do I Need Surgery? Will Physical Therapy help?


My doctor said I might have a torn rotator cuff. Will I need surgery, or will physical therapy help?


Before determining if you will need surgery or not, your doctor will likely schedule an MRI to take an image of your shoulder to determine if there is a rotator cuff tear. If there is you may or may not need surgery. The answer will depend on how significant the tear is, where the tear is located, your age and lifestyle, along with other factors. Regardless of those factors, your doctor may recommend trying a more conservative route first such as physical or occupational therapy. Your therapist will help to decrease pain, restore motion, improve strength, and hopefully return to your previous level of function. You, your therapist and doctor will then determine if surgery would still be recommended.

If you have been questioning whether or not Physical or Occupational therapy may be right for you, schedule a free 15-minute screening with one of our expert therapists today by calling 218.444.8280! Your Life. Your Health. Your Choice!

Sarah Kuhn: Physical Therapy Assistant


Q&A W/ Your Therapist (Jake Kremer): Do I need surgery if I have arthritis?

Question: My x-ray or MRI shows arthritis; do I need surgery?

Answer: In short, no. Arthritis, also known as osteoarthritis is defined as degenerative changes to the joint surface, or cartilage, leading to irritation of the underlying bone. This is a normal and typical part of aging.  In fact, a human being starts to develop arthritis in their spine in their early 20’s. So, we all may have this to some extent. Meanwhile, studies will show that there is low correlation between findings on diagnostic imaging and pain levels. In fact, up to 70% of people with findings on their x-ray or MRI do not have associated pain (Bhattacharyya et al., 2003; Boden et al., 1990). Therefore, a finding of arthritis just confirms that you are over the age of 20. If you have pain in an area and have diagnostic imaging performed (X-ray, MRI, CT scan) your doctor is using this information to the best of his or her ability to determine a probable cause of pain. However, just like anything else, x-rays and MRI’s have limitations, they are only one snapshot in time. Contributing factors that will not be shown on the image include nerve sensitivities, joint and muscle tension/tightness, abnormal posture, and abnormal movement patterns. That is where a thorough exam from your physical therapist can help (and keep you away from having to get surgery). A finding of arthritis alone does not indicate that this is the definite cause of your pain, and certainly does not necessarily mean that you have to live in pain or need surgery.

If you have questions or concerns, call and schedule a free screening with Choice Therapy today at 218.444.8280! Your life. Your health. Your Choice!

Dr. Jake Kremer, PT, DPT, FIT, CSCS