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Do you need surgery for your work-related rotator cuff tear?

On Behalf of | Aug 7, 2020 | Workers' Compensation

A work-related rotator cuff tear in North Carolina can be extremely painful. You may wonder about the treatment options available to you and whether you will need surgery to repair the damage. Not necessarily; some rotator cuff tears heal on their own without surgical intervention. Therefore, your doctor is unlikely to recommend surgery until after you have first tried a conservative treatment course.

According to Web MD, there are two common types of procedures used to treat a rotator cuff tear. An open tendon repair involves making a large incision into the shoulder.  Arthroscopic repair is a more recent innovation that involves inserting a camera and small surgical tools directly into the joint through several small incisions. An arthroscopic repair has certain advantages over open repair, so doctors tend to favor it. However, sometimes the tear is so large and so complex that an open tendon repair is necessary.

Your doctor may recommend surgery for your rotator cuff tear if one or more of the following is true:

  • You lead an active lifestyle
  • There is evidence of a severe tear that needs surgery immediately
  • Six to 12 months after your injury, your condition has not improved
  • Movement of the shoulder is painful
  • Your shoulder muscles have atrophied, i.e., lost strength

However, treatment measures that do not involve surgery are often effective at healing a rotator cuff tear. Therefore, doctors usually will not recommend surgery until you have completed a course of conservative (i.e., nonsurgical) treatment with no improvement. Conservative treatment may include physical therapy, icing, rest and over-the-counter pain relievers.

Attorney Jay Gervasi can attest personally to this pattern.  Several years ago, he started having problems in his shoulder that made him suspicious of a rotator cuff injury that would require surgery.  He was told by a qualified orthopedist that physical therapy would probably be sufficient.  He was skeptical, but, after a couple of months of formal therapy and home exercise, he was “completely cured.”  He still does the home exercises, to make sure his problems don’t return, and he still has an old shoulder (along with the rest of his skeleton), but he is able to use the shoulder without limitation.

On the other hand, a member of Gervasi’s family was lifting a dumbbell when he heard a pop that caused others in the gym to stop and stare.  He obviously required surgery, for a complex set of severe tears in his shoulder.  As with most medical conditions, appropriate treatment of the shoulder will depend on the specific nature of the condition.

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.