1. What causes a bone spur?
The shape of the bone spur is congenital, meaning that it simply grew that way and nothing that the patient did caused the spur to grow. Overuse and chronic inflammation can cause calcifications of the ligament that attaches to the acromion, which can appear to enlarge the spur, but not change the shape of the acromion.
2. Do rotator cuff tears heal on their own?
In a word, no. The tendons of the rotator cuff have a very scant blood supply and the tissue is under tension. This creates a very poor environment for healing and tears of the cuff do not heal, but tend to slowly enlarge over time.
3. How long will I be out following surgery?
That depends on the degree of damage to the cuff. If the cuff is intact and the bone spur is simply removed, a procedure called decompression can be performed. Most people are back to regular activity around 4 weeks following surgery. Complete tears of the cuff that require repair take much longer to heal. Tissue healing takes around 6 weeks and another 6 weeks of rehab to restore strength and motion giving a healing time of about 3 months before any significant lifting is allowed. Individual results vary, of course, but these are good general guidelines.
4. If I don’t get it fixed, what will happen?
Most tears get slowly larger over time as discussed above. Many individuals are able to function very well and have little pain with tears of the cuff and do not desire to undergo surgery. I usually do not recommend surgery unless pain is significantly affecting quality of life and conservative treatments are not effective. However, putting off treatment of an established (MRI proven) tear does run the risk of the long-term outcome being worsened due to diminishing quality of the cuff tissue with time.
5. Will I get back to sports?
Most patients with a successful repair of the cuff do return to their previous activities, with some modifications. Strenuous overhead exercises such as weight lifting, tennis and volleyball are possible, in small doses.