- What Is It
- Risk Factors
Most rotator cuff tears cannot heal on their own unless the injury is minor. Some need short-term anti-inflammatory medication along with physiotherapy, whereas most need surgical intervention.
What is a rotator cuff injury?
Your rotator cuff is made up of four muscles and ligaments that help balance the shoulder and move the joint. A tear or injury can cause a dull ache in the shoulder, which frequently worsens the more you use your arm or try to lift objects.
Rotator cuff tears are common, and the risk increases with age. They are commonly seen in people whose jobs require them to perform repetitive overhead movements, such as painting or construction work.
What are the different types of rotator cuff injuries?
Rotator cuff injuries range from mild to severe, and can be separated into three categories:
- Tendinitis: Caused by overuse of the rotator cuff, leading to inflammation.
- Bursitis: Caused by irritated bursa, which are liquid-filled sacs that sit between the rotator cuff ligaments and the underlying bone.
- Tears: Caused by overuse or trauma of the rotator cuff (fall, accident, or extreme strain). Rotator cuff tears can be partial (tendon is still somewhat attached to the bone) or complete (tendon has separated completely from the bone).
What are risk factors for rotator cuff tears?
The following factors may increase the risk of having a rotator cuff injury.
- Age: As people get older, the risk of a rotator cuff injury increases. Rotator cuff tears are common in people over 60.
- Occupations: Jobs such as carpentry or house painting require repetitive overhead, arm movements over time that can cause damage to the rotator cuff sleeve.
- Family history: Inherited tendon weakness may run in some families.
What are the signs and symptoms of rotator cuff injury?
Not all rotator cuff injuries cause pain. Some are the result of degenerative conditions, which means the rotator cuff could be injured for quite a long time before symptoms begin to show up.
In general, signs and symptoms of rotator cuff injury include:
- Pain in the shoulder that worsens at night
- Pain in the shoulder that worsens with certain movements, such as reaching overhead
- Loss of full range of motion of the affected shoulder (i.e. inability to reach behind the back)
- Trouble sleeping on the affected shoulder
- Progressive weakening of the shoulder
How are rotator cuff tears treated?
Treatments range from resting the affected arm to medical procedures like surgery. Tendinitis can advance to a cuff sleeve tear, and the injury can deteriorate with time. Seeking treatment as soon as the symptoms are noticed helps keep the injury from advancing.
Nonsurgical treatments include:
- Resting the affected arm and wearing a sling to isolate arm movements
- Applying hot or cold packs to the affected shoulder to reduce inflammation
- Physical therapy and exercises to recover strength and range of motion
- Injecting the affected area with cortisone, a steroid that helps reduce inflammation
- Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen and naproxen
How to prevent a rotator cuff tear
Daily stretching and exercising may help strengthen the rotator cuff and prevent the risk of injury.
Most exercises for a torn rotator cuff work on the pectoral, shoulder, and upper arm muscles. However, it is important to also strengthen the muscles of the upper back (trapezius) as well as the muscles around the shoulder bone to stabilize the joint from all sides. Your primary care physician or a physiotherapist can assist with this.
- FDA Panel Backs RSV Vaccine for Infants, Some Toddlers
- Seniors: Stay Social, Active for 'Optimal Aging,' Study Shows
- Diabetes Med Metformin Might Help Prevent Long COVID
- Disability a Growing Concern for U.S. Cancer Survivors
- Smoke From Wildfires Is Especially Tough If You Have Asthma. Here’s How to Protect Yourself
- More Health News »
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
John Hopkins Medicine. Partial Rotator Cuff Tear. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/partial-rotator-cuff-tear
Top Can a Torn Rotator Cuff Heal on Its Own Related Articles
Bursitis Symptoms and TreatmentsDiagnosed with bursitis? Learn about treatment and prevention for trochanteric bursitis, as well as hip, knee, shoulder and other bursitis types.
How Long Does It Take to Heal Shoulder Tendonitis?Shoulder tendinitis can take 4 weeks to 6 months or longer to heal, depending on the severity of your injury. Learn about symptoms and treatment.
Frozen ShoulderIt's got nothing to do with cold weather. It means your shoulder is jammed up. WebMD guides you through the causes of frozen shoulder and what you can do about it.
Rotator Cuff Tear and InjuryRotator cuff injury is damage to any of the four tendons that stabilize the shoulder joint. Shoulder pain and tenderness are common symptoms. Rotator cuff disease treatment depends on the severity of the shoulder injury.
Rotator Cuff Tear: Exercises, Symptoms, Tests, and SurgeryRotator cuff tears are painful. Learn about rotator cuff tear exercises, symptoms, tests, and surgery.
Shoulder and Neck PainShoulder and neck pain may be caused by bursitis, a pinched nerve, whiplash, tendinitis, a herniated disc, or a rotator cuff injury. Symptoms also include weakness, numbness, coolness, color changes, swelling, and deformity. Treatment at home may incorporate resting, icing, and elevating the injury. A doctor may prescribe pain medications and immobilize the injury.
Shoulder BursitisShoulder bursitis is inflammation of the shoulder bursa. Bursitis may be caused by injury, infection, or a rheumatic condition. Symptoms include pain, swelling, tenderness, and pain with movement of the shoulder joint. Treatment may involve ice compresses, rest, and anti-inflammatory medications and depends on whether there is an infection.
Sprains and StrainsAn injury to a ligament is called a sprain, and an injury to muscle or tendon is called a strain. Sprains and strains may be caused by repetitive movements or a single stressful incident. Symptoms and signs include pain and swelling. Though treatment depends upon the extent and location of the injury, rest, ice, compression, and elevation are key elements of treatment.
What Are the Symptoms of a Torn Tendon in the Shoulder?Symptoms of a shoulder tendon tear or rotator cuff tear may include dull pain, tenderness, swelling, weakness, or stiffness.
Tendinitis CausesIf your tendons get irritated and swollen, you might have tendinitis. Learn the symptoms and find out how you can prevent and treat the condition.
What Are the Most Common Shoulder Injuries?The shoulder injury is an injury to any of the structures in the shoulder joint, including bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and cartilages. Shoulders are easily injured because they have a complex structure that provides a wide range of motion. They are the most mobile joints in the body and consequently, the most unstable.
What Does It Mean to Reduce a Shoulder Dislocation?Your shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint where the head of the humerus (ball) fits into the glenoid cavity (socket) of the scapula bone. When the humerus slips out of the glenoid cavity, the condition is known as a shoulder dislocation.
What Is a Hemiarthroplasty of the Shoulder?A hemiarthroplasty of the shoulder is a surgical procedure that involves the replacement of the ball (humeral head) with the prosthesis, and the socket (glenoid) is left intact.
What Is a Shoulder Subacromial Injection?Injecting corticosteroids into the subacromial space is one method to treat inflammation and pain. Injections can reduce pain and inflammation and restore the mobility of shoulder joints.