Anytime you hear the word surgery, it’s natural to want to take a step back and examine your options. Wondering whether it’s really necessary is also completely normal – not that you shouldn’t trust your doctor, but surgery is a scary word! You can rest assured that orthopedic specialist Dr. James Talkington recommends rotator cuff repair surgery only when absolutely necessary.

The rotator cuff consists of 4 tendons and muscles in the shoulder that allow you to be able to raise and rotate your arm. It often gets injured while playing sports, both from sudden trauma and from microscopic tears that can occur over time from overuse. Rotator cuff and shoulder pain is often caused by normal wear and tear. Repeated overhead movements can cause the tendons to weaken or be damaged. In severe cases, the tendons will actually start to rub against the bones. Forceful injuries from car accidents can also cause rotator cuff pain and disorders.

If you are having rotator cuff problems, you understand how much of a vital role the rotator cuff plays in your overall range of motion and movements. Rotator cuff disorders include calcium buildup in the tendons, partial or complete tears of the tendons, tendinitis and bursitis (inflammation of the tendons or bursa, respectively).

There are many non-surgical ways of treating rotator cuff tears and pain. These include physical therapy, cortisone injections, rest, and anti-inflammatory medications. If your shoulder does not respond well to these treatments, Dr. Talkington will recommend surgical options.

When considering whether or not you need surgery, it is important to keep the following in mind:

Your Lifestyle and Quality of Life
Is your quality of life and lifestyle impacted by your rotator cuff disorder? If your symptoms are not severe enough to interfere with your day to day life, surgery may not be necessary. Those who lead very active lifestyles where pain free ease of movement is important may want to consider surgical options.

Severity of Pain
Patients who have difficulty with day-to-day tasks due to the sheer pain they are in may be good candidates for surgery. Conversely, patients who are able to perform their daily functions with minor pain may find adequate relief in nonsurgical treatments.

Type of Tear
If you have small tears, they can be monitored to see if nonsurgical treatments help ease any pain or increase your range of motion. Larger tears, on the other hand, can retract and make the tendon permanently shortened and weak. If taken care of earlier on, surgery may alleviate your symptoms while also preventing long-term damage.

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