PT eDigest

PTD0814_PTKeeping the Fat Out of Your Rotator Cuff

For most of us, the idea of “fighting fat” is nothing new. But fat is not just an enemy of your waistline. It’s an enemy of your muscles, too—especially when you are recovering from rotator cuff surgery. When the rotator cuff tendon is torn, a gap between the tendon and bones is formed. Your body tries to fix this by spontaneously generating tissue to fill the gap; unfortunately, it does this with fatty tissue instead of muscle.

The more fatty infiltrate you have, the harder it will be for you to heal after surgery. Several studies have found that the longer the time between a tendon tear and surgery, the higher the risk that substantial fatty infiltrate will affect your recovery. And fatty infiltration has been associated with increasing age, size of the tear, the degree of tendon retraction, the number of tendons involved and traumatic tears.

If the damage has already been done, the only way to combat the negative effects is with physical therapy. Preoperatively, a therapeutic exercise program can minimize pain and swelling, reduce the risk of further injury and strengthen muscle around the infiltrate so that your shoulder can heal more effectively.

After surgery, a physical therapy rehabilitation program can also enhance the results of your surgical procedure, regardless of the degree of fatty infiltration. After surgery, an individualized exercise program can help

  • relieve pain and swelling
  • minimize pain and injury recurrence
  • develop a progressive strength-training routine
  • teach techniques you can perform at home

We can work with your surgeon if a substantial amount of fatty infiltrate has been found in your shoulder. We can design a postoperative program to reduce the discomfort and functional limitations caused by the invasion of fatty tissue.

While fatty infiltration is irreversible and progressive if left untreated, under our professional guidance an exercise program can minimize pain and enhance your return to function. Think of it this way: while we cannot get the fat to move out of your injured rotator cuff, we can at least ensure that it does not invite its friends to come over and stay!

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