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How physical therapy can help a turn rotator cuff

The idea of physical therapy helping with a torn muscle may seem very counterintuitive. However, research has failed to show surgery as a superior intervention than physical therapy and has significantly more risks. 

Even with surgery, there is a 29% chance of your rotator cuff re-tearing before the two- year follow-up. Ironically, whenever or not the rotator cuff is re-torn on a post-operative MRI may not be significantly related to one’s pain or disability. For most people, I recommend trying PT and only moving forward with more aggressive treatments (such as injections or surgery) as needed. Our philosophy is start with the safest option first and only move to more aggressive options if needed.  The vast majority of our patients are able to achieve all their goals with physical therapy alone and do not require injections and/or surgery. Your MRI might look the same pre- and post- surgery; however, if you have the strength and range of motion to do everything you want in life without pain or disability, does it really matter? 


  1. Ryösä, Anssi et al. “Surgery Or Conservative Treatment For Rotator Cuff Tear: A Meta-Analysis.”. Disability And Rehabilitation, Vol 39, No. 14, 2016, pp. 1357-1363. Informa UK Limited, https://doi.org/10.1080/09638288.2016.1198431.
  2. Longo, U., Carnevale, A., Piergentili, I., Berton, A., Candela, V., Schena, E. and Denaro, V., 2021. Retear rates after rotator cuff surgery: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, 22(1).

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