Phone: 973-940-3166
Fax: 973-940-3170
Billing: 570-386-2366

Do you need shoulder surgery for a rotator cuff injury?


A rotator cuff injury is a tear in the group of four muscles that cover the “ball and socket” joint of the shoulder.

A tear can occur suddenly and obviously, for instance during an athletic event. Or it can develop gradually over time. Some rotator cuff tears come about from normal age-related wear and tear, and the patient won’t be able to recall anything that caused the tear.

Your doctor may use a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan or ultrasound to better understand what is going on in your shoulder. Whether you’ll need surgery depends on your level of pain and whether other, less-invasive treatments can help you.

Your doctor will probably first see if physical therapy, steroid injections, and/or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications can take care of the pain.

Surgery may be needed if:

  • Pain and weakness in your shoulder continue despite several months of rest and medication.
  • The pain keeps you awake at night.
  • You have trouble lifting or reaching with the arm.

Your doctor may recommend going straight to surgery, though, if you use your arm for overhead work or sports, or if the tear is quite large.

If you do need surgery, it will probably be performed using a minimally invasive technique called arthroscopy. This means a thin fiber-optic camera called an arthroscope, along with surgical instruments, will be inserted into small incisions in the shoulder.

You should be able to go home the same day as your surgery. You’ll need help at home, though, because you’ll need to have that arm in a sling for probably four to six weeks. You’ll be in physical therapy for a few months, although you may be able to return to many of your normal activities within six to eight weeks.

Within three to four months, you’ll probably be able to participate in limited athletic pursuits. If all goes well, you could return to all your activities in four to six months.

If you’re concerned about shoulder pain, one of the doctors at Specialty Surgical Center can help diagnose the problem and talk to you about options.

Specialty Surgical Center is located in Sparta, New Jersey, and our staff consists of board certified surgeons and anesthesiologists performing procedures in orthopedics, sports medicine, spinal care, podiatry, urology, pain management, ENT, hand surgery, lithotripsy, brachytherapy, GYN, and laser surgery.

For more information about Specialty Surgical Center, call 973-940-3166 or visit our Contact Page.

The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace or counter a physician’s advice or judgment. Please always consult your physician before taking any advice learned here or in any other educational medical material.