Can Regenerative Medicine Eliminate the Need for Rotator Cuff Surgery?

You’ve been told that a torn rotator cuff is the cause of your intense shoulder pain. Your rotator cuff is a mix of muscles and tendons that help you move your shoulder every day; the cuff also helps support and steady your shoulder when you move it. You use your rotator cuff any time you move your shoulder, so it gets a lot of use over a lifetime. 

If you’ve played tennis, baseball, or another sport in which you swing your arm over your head, you can develop rotator cuff injuries. And if you have a job that involves physical movement where you swing your shoulders, such as a carpenter or painter, you’re more prone to rotator cuff injuries. Long-term repetitive overhead motion over many years is a key contributor. 

The standard test to determine if your rotator cuff is torn is usually an MRI. If the tear is a complete or partial tear, physicians usually recommend surgery to repair the cuff. However, surgery has many downsides. There are alternatives. 

Stem cell therapy: an alternative to rotator cuff repair

Dr. Henry Small, board-certified orthopedic surgeon, uses stem cell therapy to help many of his patients recover from rotator cuff injury. Dr. Small uses an FDA-approved type of stem cells called mesenchymal stem cells. They’re gathered from pre-approved donor cord tissue and processed in an FDA-approved lab. This type of stem cell therapy is a nonsurgical alternative to an invasive operation with a long recovery period. 

Stem cells contain ‘growth factors’ with healing nutrients that promote tissue repair. Dr. Small injects the sterile stem cells at the site of your rotator cuff pain. They go to work where they’re needed, repairing worn-out cartilage. 

Research supports stem cells as a promising alternative to surgery for rotator cuff injury.  A study appearing in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Library of Medicine notes that the use of stem cells to aid healing in rotator cuff repair is a “promising alternative.” Animal studies show good results; the report says that more research on humans needs to be done before the procedure would be considered a standard treatment. 

Disadvantages of surgery for a rotator cuff tear 

There are several disadvantages to invasive surgery for this injury. 

Long recovery period

Rotator cuff surgery involves a long recovery. Your arm is in a sling for a number of weeks. Sleeping in a bed is difficult, and you may end up sleeping in a recliner for a month or two. Showering is difficult with your arm wrapped in plastic. You’ll definitely have to take time off from work. 

High re-tear rate

If you have surgery to repair your rotator cuff, there is a real probability that you might tear it again. Then what? The re-tear rate is more than 20%, and a number of studies show that the rate can range anywhere from 20% to 90%, depending on the doctor and the injury. Surgery attempts to knit together fragile and degenerative tissue, an approach that may not work. 

Research notes surgical approaches to rotator cuff repair aren’t optimal 

A study in the NIH library reports that current approaches to rotator cuff surgery don’t achieve optimal healing. Do you want to take the chance of tearing the cuff again? 

In some complex cases, surgery may be required for rotator cuff injury. Dr. Small, board-certified orthopedic surgeon with years of experience, consults with you on the best course of action for your particular injury. 


Call Dr. Henry Small, located in Houston, Texas, for the most advanced regenerative medicine available today.

You Might Also Enjoy...

5 Tips to Protect Your Back

Nothing can hijack your life like back pain, which is why avoiding it in the first place is the best plan of attack. To get you started, we’ve gathered five great tips that will go a long way toward keeping back pain at bay.

Are Your Hips Holding You Back?

Your hip joints are hard at work propelling you through life. When pain and discomfort strikes these large joints, the effects can be all-encompassing, affecting your ability to make your way through the world. Here’s a look at the problem and solution.

Get Back in the Game With Sports Medicine

Whether you’re a weekend warrior on the courts or a daily runner, remaining active is important to you. Through sports medicine, our goal is to get you off the sidelines and back in the game, functioning at your best.

How to Live with Crohn's Disease

More than 1.6 million Americans struggle with inflammatory bowel disease, often at the hands of Crohn’s disease. While there’s no cure, there are some incredibly effective steps you can take to offset the impact that Crohn’s disease can have on your life.

Is Back Pain Normal As You Age?

Aches and pains are an inevitable part of getting older. Back pain is no different, and up to 80% of people experience back pain at some point in life. But when is back pain a normal part of aging, and when it is a sign of something more serious?