Rotator Cuff Repair

The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that cover the shoulder and help you raise and rotate your arm, while also providing stability. A rotator cuff tear can result in significant shoulder pain and weakness, and may affect your ability to perform certain activities.

Rotator cuff tears are common among athletes, weekend warriors, and people whose jobs require repetitive shoulder motions. If a rotator cuff tear causes significant pain and makes it difficult to participate in your job or sport, rotator cuff repair surgery can help.

Dr. Wathne has nearly 25 years of experience in performing rotator cuff repair surgery. He is fellowship trained in sports medicine, and is trained in both arthroscopic and open rotator cuff repair techniques. Dr. Wathne keeps current on the latest techniques in rotator cuff repair and frequently attends meetings to learn about the newest research on shoulder surgery. He is the most experienced rotator cuff surgeon in the Pocatello area, and patients often travel to Pocatello to have Dr. Wathne complete their rotator cuff repairs.

Causes & Symptoms of a Rotator Cuff Tear

Rotator cuff tears are often caused by wear and tear on the muscles and tendons over time. Activities that place repetitive stress on the rotator cuff, including baseball, tennis, and weightlifting, can put you at a greater risk of a rotator cuff tear. Jobs that require a lot of physical labor can also place stress on the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff can also tear with a sudden shoulder injury, such as a collision during sports play, a fall, or a car accident. These types of rotator cuff tears often occur alongside other shoulder injuries, like a broken collarbone or dislocated shoulder.

When the rotator cuff tears due to a sudden injury, patients usually have intense pain, and symptoms are present immediately. However, if the rotator cuff tear develops gradually over time, symptoms may start off as mild and gradually intensify over time. Common symptoms include:

  • Pain when moving the shoulder or performing certain motions, especially lifting and lowering
  • A feeling of weakness when lifting or rotating the arm
  • Shoulder pain at night, especially when lying on the injured shoulder
  • A grating or crackling sensation when moving the shoulder

In the early stages, pain may be managed with over-the-counter medications. However, without medical treatment, symptoms usually get worse over time. If you have any of these symptoms, an evaluation with an experienced surgeon like Dr. Wathne can help in diagnosing your injury and determining whether surgery is an option.

Rotator Cuff Repair Surgery

In some cases, rotator cuff tears can be treated with nonsurgical methods like rest, activity modification, anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, and shoulder injections. However, if pain persists, Dr. Wathne may recommend surgery to repair the rotator cuff tear. He may also recommend surgery if the patient is very active or has a job requiring physical labor.

Dr. Wathne completes most rotator cuff repairs arthroscopically, using a small camera called an arthroscope to view the shoulder and repair the tear using small surgical instruments. This method allows him to complete the surgery using much smaller incisions, often reduces pain in recovery. In rare cases, open surgery may be necessary to produce the best results; however, Dr. Wathne is very experienced in open rotator cuff repairs, as well.

On average, the procedure takes about 90 minutes to complete. In most cases, rotator cuff repair surgery will not require an overnight hospital stay. Dr. Wathne’s team will administer a nerve block before surgery, which helps to reduce pain immediately after surgery and often lasts until the next morning.

Recovering from Rotator Cuff Surgery

After rotator cuff surgery, patients may be given anti-inflammatories and medications to help with pain after the nerve block wears off. Dr. Wathne advises patients to keep the arm in a sling for about 6 weeks after surgery. Patients may sleep in whichever position they feel most comfortable while recovering. Many patients find sleeping in a recliner to be the most comfortable in the initial recovery period.

Dr. Wathne’s patients typically have an initial healing period of about 3-6 weeks before they begin physical therapy. Physical therapy services are available on-site, which allows Dr. Wathne to work closely with the physical therapists on a team-based approach to recovery. Patients typically participate in physical therapy for 6-12 weeks.

Most patients are able to begin driving within 3 weeks. Return to work ultimately depends on the nature of the patient’s job and their progress in therapy. Patients with office jobs may be able to return to work in as soon as a week. However, if a job requires physical labor, the patient may be out for as long as 3 - 6 months. Patients who play sports are also advised not to return for 3 - 6 months. This ensures that the patient has enough time to build up the strength and range of motion needed in the shoulder to sustain more strenuous activity, so that the procedure is more successful long-term.

Rotator Cuff Repair in Pocatello, ID

Dr. Richard Wathne is a board certified orthopaedic surgeon with fellowship training in sports medicine. As a shoulder specialist, he keeps current on all of the latest techniques in rotator cuff repair surgery to provide the best possible results for his patients, both in the immediate recovery period and long-term. If you would like to schedule an appointment with Dr. Wathne, please call our office at (208) 233-2100 or request an appointment online.