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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 a group of muscles and tendons that hold the shoulder joint in place. The damage may include muscle stretching, tendon tears, or bursa inflammation. The bursa is a fluid sac around the joint.

Shoulder Anatomy


Call your doctor or orthopedist if:

  • You suddenly cannot move your arm.
  • 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 questions or concerns about your condition or care.


You may need any of the following:

  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Read the labels of all other medicines you are using to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your doctor or pharmacist. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly. Do not use more than 4 grams (4,000 milligrams) total of acetaminophen in one day.
  • NSAIDs help decrease swelling and pain or fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask your healthcare provider how to take this medicine safely. Some prescription pain medicines contain acetaminophen. Do not take other medicines that contain acetaminophen without talking to your healthcare provider. Too much acetaminophen may cause liver damage. Prescription pain medicine may cause constipation. Ask your healthcare provider how to prevent or treat constipation.
  • 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 or 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.

A physical therapist

can teach you exercises to help improve shoulder movement and strength, and decrease pain. You may learn changes to daily activities that will help decrease stress on your tendons.


  • Rest may help your shoulder heal. Overuse of your shoulder can make your injury worse. Avoid heavy lifting, putting your arms over your head, or sports that need an overhead or throwing motion. Any of these movements can cause or worsen a rotator cuff injury.
  • Put ice on your shoulder every few hours for the first several days. Ice helps decrease pain and swelling. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Wrap a towel around the bag before you put it on your shoulder. Apply ice for 15 minutes every hour, or as directed.
  • Put heat on your shoulder when directed. After the first several days, heat may help relax the muscles in your shoulder. Use a heat pack or heating pad. Apply heat for 20 minutes every hour, or as directed.

Follow up with your doctor or orthopedist as directed:

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

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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.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.