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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

Common signs and symptoms:

  • Pain that may be constant or come and go (such as only when you lie on the injured shoulder)
  • Pain or stiffness in your shoulder that travels down your arm
  • Trouble lifting your arm or placing it behind your back
  • Trouble moving or using your shoulder
  • A swollen shoulder that may be painful to the touch
  • Numbness in part or all of your arm
  • A popping noise along with pain when you lift your arm

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.


may include any of the following:

  • Medicines may be needed for pain or inflammation.
  • 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.
  • Surgery may be needed if your injury is severe or your symptoms do not improve. Surgery may be used to clean away damaged tissue or fix a tear. A piece of another tissue or muscle may be used to fix a badly torn tendon. The bone of your shoulder joint may be reshaped so it stays in place. An artificial joint made of metal and plastic may be put into your shoulder.

Care for your rotator cuff injury at home:

  • 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.