Physical therapy and rehabilitation
A physical therapy and rehabilitation (rehab) program usually involves exercises to stretch and gradually strengthen the shoulder. Some physical therapists may use other techniques, such as massage or ultrasound, to relieve pain and reduce muscle spasms.
This program of treatment may be used without surgery or as part of recovery after surgery. It can reduce pain in the soft tissues (such as the muscles, ligaments, and tendons), improve function, and build muscle strength.
Common difficulties with rehab programs include:
- Impatience during the long periods of rest needed to let your shoulder heal. Athletes and people whose jobs depend upon the use of their arms may find it hard to be patient with this stage of treatment.
- Not doing exercises as often as prescribed.
- Using incorrect technique when doing exercises.
Although completing a rehab program may be hard, a successful outcome after surgery depends on your commitment to treatment. If you follow your physical therapy plan closely and get help when you need it, you are more likely to restore shoulder strength and movement.
Exercises for rotator cuff disorders include:
- Gentle stretching exercises. These are often the most important part of physical therapy for rotator cuff disorders, especially when stiffness is a major symptom. Stretching includes range-of-motion exercises.
- Strengthening exercises. In general, you won't start these exercises until your rotator cuff has healed and is able to perform the stretching and range-of-motion exercises comfortably. Strengthening exercises can help you build and keep shoulder function and stability.
- Rotator Cuff Problems: Exercises You Can Do at Home (with your doctor's approval)
Treatments being studied
Experts are studying a new treatment for chronic calcifying tendinitis of the rotator cuff. The treatment uses sound waves to create shock waves that destroy calcium deposits in the rotator cuff tendons. This is called extracorporeal shock wave therapy. Some studies show pain relief and increased range of motion. But more studies are needed to see whether these results can be duplicated and to measure long-term results.1
Other treatments being studied include:
- Hyaluronan, which is injected into a joint to help supplement the natural synovial fluid in the joint.