Can small bilateral rotator tears be overcome (pain!) by exercise alone? Damaged in 1998. Ok only if elbows as side, or ouch ali

It depends what mean. If you talking about healing it completely there is possibility, some could function very with partial tear of the rotator cuff without healing completely.
Sometimes. Ive treated many people with conservative treatment and they've done well depending on the activity, location and severity of the tear, physical therapy with nsaids and possibly a cortisone shot could work if the patient can't get to a decent level this way, surgical treatment might be necessary.