The MRI on the left above shows a complete rotator cuff tear that needs surgery. However, this martial-arts master knew that if he headed that direction, there was a significant chance that the shoulder he depended on to place opponents on the floor, as shown on the right, may never be the same. As a result, he chose to enter one of our research studies where his stem cells were precisely injected into the tear without surgery. More interesting is that the image on the right, of him winning a huge match, was taken after that procedure.
Why Rotator Cuff Surgery May Be a Bad Choice for Athletes and Active Weekend Warriors
Whether you’re a martial-arts master, a professional athlete, or just an active weekend warrior who relies on a full range of motion and proper functioning of your shoulder, rotator cuff surgery may be the wrong choice. Why? Before we get into our shoulder injury story, let’s review a small handful of recent research on rotator cuff surgery:
- One study showed that only half of professional and competitive athletes returned to the same level of play following a rotator cuff surgery.
- Pain accompanied by a rotator cuff tear, seen on MRI, may not be due to the tear. This disconnect may explain why many patients still have pain following surgery.
- Another study showed that a rotator cuff surgery was no better than physical therapy in restoring shoulder function.
- With larger rotator cuff tears, there are high retear rates, a whopping 81% in one large study.
How to Avoid Surgery for Rotator Cuff Tears: Javier’s Shoulder Story
Javier was first seen at our Colorado clinic in the spring of 2015. At that time, he had had shoulder pain for about a year that had begun with lifting heavy weights. Despite reducing his weights and changing his martial arts training schedule, the pain got worse and not better. His MRI is on the left above. Notice the white line that runs through and through the dark rotator cuff tendon, indicating a complete tear. He was offered a surgical procedure, but chose to look into how to avoid surgery for rotator cuff tears and instead search for other techniques that might help him heal the damage rather than getting cut open and sewn up, potentially damaging his ability to compete in tournaments. In June of last year, he was injected using high-dose stem cells (HD-BMC) and by eight weeks later, just when he would usually be ramping up postsurgical rehab, he was reporting 90–100% relief and a return to activities! If he had gone the surgery route, he would have been lucky to have just come out of the brace at that point!
This is what we just got from Javier (with the above picture attached):
“Here is an update status from a rotator cuff study patient, as of now I’ve been extremely active and have not had a single issue with my shoulder. Recently I competed in the Las Vegas Abu Dhabi trails for jiu-jitsu and took gold, and I don’t think it would’ve been possible without Regenexx.”
The upshot? We shouldn’t have been able to treat the above complete rotator cuff tear without surgery and have a patient return to working out in record time, but we did. This patient shouldn’t have been able to compete at an elite level without surgery, but he did. Turns out that many of the assumptions on which the modern orthopedic surgery mentality rests are likely incorrect. If you or a loved one is in this situation and are interested in how to avoid surgery for rotator cuff tears and get back to competition much sooner, we’d be glad to take a look to see if you’re a candidate for this procedure.