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Is dry needling good for a rotator cuff tear?

Dry Needling Rotator Cuff Tear
3 minutes, 40 seconds

Do you or someone you know have a torn rotator cuff? Many rotator cuff injuries don’t require surgery and will respond relatively well to alternative treatments. One such treatment is called dry needling, and it’s a technique that your physical therapist can perform for you. This technique involves the use of small, hollow, “dry” needles that are inserted into the skin. The dry needles are used to target areas that have become injured and release trigger points and tension in the muscles (and that’s not all, either). It can be used to treat a variety of conditions, especially rotator cuff tears

If you’re unfamiliar with rotator cuff tears and the benefits of dry needling for this condition, keep reading below.

What exactly is a rotator cuff tear?

The rotator cuff consists of several muscles and tendons in the shoulder. These muscles and tendons enclose the shoulder joint and help keep the shoulder stable. A rotator cuff tear is essentially when the tendons that connect the shoulder muscles to the shoulder bone rip, either partially or completely. These rips can occur from an injury during physical activity or from overuse. The symptoms and causes of rotator cuff tears are similar to those of SLAP tears, but they’re not to be confused.

What are the symptoms of rotator cuff tears?

  • Dull throbbing in the shoulder — One of the first symptoms that can be identified with this type of shoulder injury is a dull, throbbing sensation.
  • Trouble sleeping — Many people also report having trouble sleeping due to the pain they feel in their shoulders. The pain may become aggravated when the individual sleeps on their affected shoulder.
  • Weakness in the arm — Some may experience weakness in the arm or unusually limited use of the arm.
  • Pain — Not everyone experiences shoulder pain with their rotator cuff tear, but some may experience this.

How can dry needling help a rotator cuff tear?

  • Stimulating muscles and blood flow — Dry needling mainly functions to stimulate the muscles and boost circulation in the targeted areas. Stimulating blood flow to the shoulder can help reduce the inflammation in the torn rotator cuff.
  • Releasing tension — After the muscles become activated and blood circulation is stimulated in the target area, the result is ultimately the release of muscle tension around the torn rotator cuff. 
  • Improving range of motion — Dry needling can also result in an improved range of motion around the shoulder after a rotator cuff tear. The release of tension can help the mobility and range of the shoulder.
  • Reducing pain — For those who do experience pain as a symptom of their torn rotator cuff, physical therapy may help alleviate some of the pain that rotator cuff tears can cause.

Dry needling is an effective treatment method that can be used for rotator cuff injuries. It is a minimally invasive treatment that can be paired with other physical therapy methods to promote recovery from shoulder injuries.

What are some other effective treatments for rotator cuff tears?

  • Rest — If you’re hoping to avoid invasive treatments like surgery, something that may benefit your shoulder is allowing it plenty of time to rest. You’ll need to avoid any aggravating motions to help it heal.
  • Ice — Using some sort of ice pack on the injured shoulder can help minimize swelling and inflammation. It may also help relieve some of the pain if any is felt.
  • Anti-inflammatory medication — Anti-inflammatory medications may be helpful for temporarily reducing swelling and inflammation in the shoulder.
  • Steroid injections — Steroid injections are an option for those who have a shoulder injury to their rotator cuff. They may temporarily reduce some of the inflammation occurring in the shoulder, but will most likely require several doses.
  • Physical therapy — Dry needling isn’t the only technique that can be used during physical therapy to treat a rotator cuff tear. A physical therapist can create a unique treatment plan to gently exercise your shoulder without aggravating your injury. The exercises will intentionally target the cause of the injury while building strength and improving the range of motion to protect from future injuries of the same nature.

Alliance PTP is ready to help you find top-notch physical therapists who can perform dry needling for your torn rotator cuff

Are you dealing with a torn rotator cuff? At Alliance Physical Therapy Partners, we’re proudly bringing together physical therapy practices across the country to help people get the high-quality PT they need. 

Want to see a physical therapist in person? We can put you in touch with an Alliance PTP partner that’s close to you and that can help you address your torn rotator cuff with dry needling. 

Not keen on in-person PT sessions or not close to an Alliance PTP partner? No worries. We also offer effective and affordable virtual physical therapy through our Agile Virtual Physical Therapy platform. 

Come find help for your injury or chronic condition today!


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