What Happens if a Rotator Cuff Tear Goes Untreated?
We live in a pretty busy day and age. Myself, I have a family, obviously a busy work schedule, just like everyone else out there, and so when we have things that hurt, whether it’s a shoulder, a knee, whatever, it can be somewhat inconvenient to take time out of your day to go and get it checked out.
So, one of the things that I hear from patients from time to time in the office is whether or not they’ve done any harm by putting this off and waiting for it to be evaluated or treated, and that’s kind of a double-edged question because the simple answer is not so simple.
What we know about rotator cuff tears, in general, is that small tears eventually become large tears, partial thickness tears eventually become full thickness tears, so these are a progression. It’s a process of progression over time, as you continue to use that arm or shoulder with that torn rotator cuff, and so there is such a thing as an irreparable rotator cuff tear, where it becomes so retracted and atrophied that we’re not able to actually sew it back down to the bone through a surgical procedure. So, there is such a thing as waiting too long, and that process often takes a long time… years, to undergo that kind of transformation, if you will.
So, it is something that I recommend people at least get evaluated. To get looked at, so that they can know what they’re dealing with. Then you can monitor that over time. Whether that’s through serial imaging or managing symptoms as they come up, just being aware of what’s going on inside of the shoulders so that if you are experiencing an increase in pain or new symptoms it can prompt you to take more aggressive action to prevent yourself from finding or being in that place where you now have an irreparable rotator cuff.