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Rotator Cuff Injury


A rotator cuff injury is damage to the muscles or tendons of your rotator cuff. The rotator cuff is made up of a group of muscles and tendons that hold the shoulder joint in place. The damage may include stretching of your muscle or tears in the tendons. It may also include inflammation of the bursa (small sack of fluid around the joint).


  • Acetaminophen: This medicine decreases pain. Acetaminophen is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • NSAIDs: These medicines decrease swelling, pain, and fever. NSAIDs are available without a doctor's order. Ask your healthcare provider which medicine is right for you. Ask how much to take and when to take it. Take as directed. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems if not taken correctly.
  • Pain medicine: You may be given a prescription medicine to decrease pain. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take this medicine.
  • Steroids: This medicine may be injected into the rotator cuff area to decrease inflammation and pain.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him of her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your healthcare provider or orthopedist as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Physical therapy:

A physical therapist can teach you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain. These exercises may help you go back to your usual activities or return to playing sports.


  • Rest: Rest may help your shoulder heal. Overuse of your shoulder can make your injury worse. Avoid heavy lifting, using your arms over your head, or any other activity that makes the pain worse.
  • Put ice or heat on your shoulder: Use ice on your shoulder every few hours for the first several days. This may help decrease pain and swelling. After the first several days, a heating pad may help relax the muscles in your shoulder.

Contact your healthcare provider or orthopedist if:

  • The pain in your shoulder or arm is not improving, or is worse than before you started treatment.
  • You have new pain in your neck.
  • You have a fever.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • You suddenly cannot move your arm.
  • You have severe stomach or back pain, are vomiting blood, or have black bowel movements.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.