How Do You Treat Rotator Cuff Injuries? It Depends

Summit sports medicine surgeon Mark LaBelle, M.D., explains how treating rotator cuff injuries is not a one-size-fits-all proposition.

At Summit, our sports medicine specialists tailor your treatment plan by taking into account your injury or condition, your age, your overall health, your activity level, and a host of other factors. In many cases, those treatment options can vary widely. One example is the various options available to treat rotator cuff injuries. The treatment that is best for you depends in part on your activity level and symptoms.

What is the rotator cuff?

The rotator cuff is a series of four tendons that attach to the ball of the shoulder. Their job is to move the arm. They are susceptible to injury for two reasons:

  • Biologic: Nutritional factors, hormones, and genetics play a role in tendon health. As a result, some people have a predisposition to developing rotator cuff tears.
  • Mechanical: Direct trauma can result in tearing of the rotator cuff. In other cases, pinching and friction around the rotator cuff may predispose it to wear over time.

“People of various ages are susceptible to injuries of the rotator cuff, which can be debilitating as well as very painful,” said Mark LaBelle, M.D., a Summit sports medicine surgeon who specializes in the shoulder.

How to optimize treatment of rotator cuff injuries

When it comes to treating rotator cuff tears, a sports medicine physician should weigh several factors. “The symptoms, the activity level, and the age of the patient are all factors in determining the optimal treatment for them,” Dr. LaBelle said.

For example, a less active patient may have a larger tear that causes them no symptoms. On the other hand, a more active person may have a smaller tear that is very symptomatic, causing lots of pain. “The clinician must listen to the patient to determine what the best treatment is to allow them to achieve their goals,” Dr. LaBelle said.

Nonsurgical methods, including injections and physical therapy, are effective for many patients. If you do require surgery, there are a variety of procedures available. They include:

“For some patients, there are newer procedures that might be considered to treat rotator cuff injuries, including balloon arthroplasty and superior capsular reconstruction. These may be appropriate for a select patient population,” Dr. LaBelle said.

“No matter what you choose,” Dr. LaBelle said, “my goals as your provider are to understand who you are as a person and what your goals are, so that we can determine the best treatment plan for you and get you back to where you want to be.”

Summit Orthopedics offers comprehensive sports medicine expertise

From Olympians to pro athletes to kids in youth sports and those that just want to be more active—Summit Orthopedics delivers expert care by fellowship-trained sports medicine physicians. If you are recently injured or concerned about ongoing pain, Summit Orthopedics sports medicine specialists have the expertise to evaluate your discomfort and develop a plan to quickly and safely help you get back to being active.

Start your journey to stronger, healthier athletic condition. Find your sports medicine expert, request an appointment online, or call us at (651) 968–5201 to schedule a sports medicine consultation.

Summit has convenient locations across the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, serving Minnesota and western Wisconsin. We have state-of-the-art centers for comprehensive orthopedic care in Eagan, MNPlymouth, MN, Vadnais Heights, MN, and Woodbury, MN, as well as several additional community clinics.

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  • Mark W. LaBelle, M.D.

    “My philosophy as a provider is centered on understanding my patient’s goals and how their symptoms interfere with the lifestyle they desire. I work with all my patients to formulate the appropriate treatment plan together. Whether you are an athlete looking to return to sport at a high level or someone who wants to hold your grandchildren without shoulder pain, I will work with you to achieve your goals.”

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