Will a Rotator Cuff Tear Heal without Treatment?

Will a Rotator Cuff Tear Heal without Treatment?
Will a Rotator Cuff Tear Heal without Treatment?
Will a Rotator Cuff Tear Heal without Treatment?

A rotator cuff tear is a common cause of pain among adults.  In fact, every year almost 2 million people in the United States visit their doctors because of a rotator cuff problem.1

A rotator cuff tear weakens the shoulder and can make everyday activities difficult.  If getting dressed, brushing your hair, or reaching for something overhead is painful, you may have a tear in your rotator cuff. 

Your rotator cuff is made up of a group of muscles and tendons that help lift and rotate the arm.  It also stabilizes the ball and socket of the shoulder within the shoulder joint.  A tear can occur from a fall, sports injury, or from the normal wear and tear of everyday activities as we age. 

If you have torn your rotator cuff will it heal without treatment?  No.  Rotator cuff tears do not heal themselves.  

The question we need to ask is - what type of treatment is needed?  Rotator cuff tears can be treated non-surgically or surgically. 

Non-surgical treatment is available through conservative treatment options.  These include anti-inflammatory medications, steroid injections, or physical therapy.  Physical therapy is vital to regaining strength and improving range of motion.  These treatments will not repair the tear but are used to strengthen the healthy muscles and tendons to relieve pain and restore function. 

Surgical treatment is usually recommended for younger, active patients or for those whose work requires overhead motion.  For older patients, when conservative treatments have failed, surgery may be recommended to relieve pain and restore function.  The good news is that most shoulder surgeries are performed in an outpatient setting with the option to recover at home.

Rotator cuff tears are very common and many people may not experience pain associated with a tear.  However, if you have suffered a shoulder injury or are experiencing persistent pain, you should seek treatment. 

Unfortunately, a rotator cuff tear will not heal on its own.  Treatment, whether non-surgical or surgical, is needed to relieve pain, regain strength, and restore function. 

Dr. Kevin Kruse is a board-certified, fellowship-trained, orthopedic surgeon specializing in Shoulder injuries and arthroscopic Shoulder surgery in North Texas.

1. https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/rotator-cuff-tears/