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The Most Effective Rotator Cuff Tear Treatments

by Patty Weasler, RN October 20, 2020 0 Comments

Arm sling

A tear to the rotator cuff causes pain and weakness to the shoulder that can affect everyday activities. It’s often caused by an injury or normal wear and tear from overuse. A properly prescribed regimen for rotator cuff tear treatment is key to recovery. Pain from a rotator cuff tear can be treated at home with simple remedies but more severe cases will need medical attention. Keep scrolling to learn what your options are for reducing the pain.

Treatment & Home Remedies

Rotator cuff tears often start out as shoulder tendonitis that transitions into a partial tear and then finally a complete tear. For short term pain relief, try these remedies at home.


Rotator cuff injuries can be caused by overuse that causes repetitive stress on the rotator cuff. When this is the case, resting can prevent further injury to the rotator cuff tendons. The reduced stress will minimize pain and swelling. You’ll need to eliminate overhead movements and avoid lifting heavy objects. If there are other movements that hurt, stop those as well. The continued stress on the shoulder can cause more injury and create a more significant tendon tear.

    Immobilization & Bracing

    Your doctor may recommend wearing an arm sling to keep your arm still. You’ll want to look for one that immobilizes the shoulder and has a padded strap. If you’re looking to prevent another tear, you’ll want to consider utilizing a shoulder brace during activities that may cause pain or further damage.

    Choosing the Best Shoulder Brace

      Ice or Heat

      Ice and heat are two complementary therapies that work in two different ways. Ice numbs pain and reduces swelling by interrupting the pain signal and reducing blood flow. Use a shoulder ice wrap during the first 72 hours after an acute injury. Heat, on the other hand, increases blood flow and soothes soreness. We recommend using heat after the initial swelling has gone down, because the increase of blood to the area, while it’s great for healing, can increase swelling.

      How to Properly Ice an Injury

        Stretches and Exercises

        Shoulder pain that gets worse when you perform overhead activities or lay on your affected shoulder are two signs that you may have a rotator cuff injury. Stretching and exercise will help you regain your range of motion, flexibility, and strengthen the surrounding muscles. You’ll want to get clearance from your doctor to ensure that you are not making the injury worse with movement.

        Rotator Cuff Tear Exercises


          Taping is a treatment option that uses either athletic tape or kinesiology tape to support the shoulder joint and surrounding structures. Athletic tape is used to restrict the range of motion in the shoulder and to support the joint. Kinesiology tape works differently. This kind of tape creates a small pull on the skin to increase blood and lymphatic fluid flow. It also helps to improve the user’s self-awareness which can prevent further injury to the area.

          How to Tape for Rotator Cuff Pain


            If you are suffering from shoulder pain there are over-the-counter medications that can help you find pain relief. Anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen and naproxen will reduce swelling and pain. You’ll find the most benefit when you combine them with the other nonsurgical treatments we listed above. Before you begin taking a new medication talk to your doctor or pharmacist to prevent interactions with other medications.


              Steroid injections are one treatment option that may help reduce your pain. These injections are done in the doctor’s office and have little to no downtime after. Many patients find pain relief with steroid injections but it might not be the best treatment for you. Talk to your doctor about your options and to see if you’d benefit from this treatment.

                Physical Therapy

                Physical therapy can be used to strengthen your shoulder muscles and improve your shoulder function through stretching. A physical therapist will perform a physical examination of your shoulder to determine the best movements for your injury. If you need rotator cuff surgery you’ll likely need to rehab afterward with a physical therapist.

                Rotator Cuff Physical Therapy.

                  Surgeries for Torn Rotator Cuffs

                  Most people with rotator cuff injuries do not need surgery. However, if you are still in pain and have shoulder weakness after 6 to 12 months of conservative home treatments then surgery will likely be indicated. Surgery is also used in patients who have a large tear, significant shoulder weakness, or loss of function. Talk to your orthopaedic surgeon to decide what is best for your situation.


                  An arthroscopic repair involves your surgeon inserts a small camera, called an arthroscope, into the shoulder joint. The surgeon then does the necessary repairs. This procedure uses small incisions which results in a much shorter downtime after surgery and a lower likelihood of complications from an infection.

                    Mini-Open Repair

                    The mini-open repair uses an incision approximately 3cm to 5cm long. The surgeon does use arthroscopy, to perform some of these surgical repairs. When the arthroscopic portion is complete the surgeon will finish the repair through the mini-open incision. This allows the surgeon to visualize the tendons and other structures without the use of a camera.

                      Open Repair

                      An open repair uses a larger incision to perform the surgery. The deltoid muscle is moved away from the area to allow better visualization and access. Open repairs are generally only done on large or complex tears. Most often, repairs involve reattaching the tendon to the upper arm bone (humerus). However, in a complete tear, the tendon will be sewn back onto its original spot on the upper arm bone.


                        While not every torn tendon can be prevented there are some steps you can take to decrease the chances of it happening to you. Here are our best tips to prevent a rotator cuff tear.

                        • Strengthen your shoulder muscles
                        • Reduce the stress you put on your shoulders by minimizing heavy lifting
                        • Take frequent breaks if you are actively working your shoulders
                        • Stop activities that cause pain
                        • Stretch your shoulders to maintain flexibility

                        Effective Rotator Cuff Tear Treatment

                        A torn rotator cuff is a common cause of shoulder pain. Try these home treatments to help reduce pain and swelling. If they are not enough then it's time to seek medical treatment. This can involve working with a physical therapist, steroid injections, or surgical repair. If you are experiencing shoulder pain talk to your doctor about the best next steps to get you back to all the activities you enjoy.





                        Rotator Cuff Tear Products


                        Patty Weasler, RN
                        Patty Weasler, RN

                        Patty Weasler is a freelance health writer and nurse. She is certified in critical care nursing and has been practicing for over 10 years. Patty lives in Milwaukee, WI with her husband and three children. She enjoys spending her time with family and educating people about their health.

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