Torn Rotator Cuff

About 2 million people in the United State visit their doctors per year due to a rotator cuff problem. The rotator cuff provides structure to your shoulder through various tendons and provides strength to your shoulder. Additionally, your rotator cuff allows you to reach and lift things above your head. A torn rotator cuff weakens your shoulder and makes it more difficult to do daily activities such as combing your hair, putting on your clothes and raising your arms. 

Your rotator cuff provides structure to your shoulder by providing support to your humerus to help keep it inside of your shoulder socket. The rotator cuff, composed of four muscles and a group of tendons, covers the head of your humerus. A rotator cuff injury can cause a dull ache in your shoulder and the pain may worsen when you sleep on your injured shoulder. 

Physical therapy often helps with recovering from these injuries. Targeted exercises can improve the flexibility and strength of the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint. In the case that injuries to the rotator cuff come from a single injury such as from a car accident or slip and fall. If damage to the rotator cuff occurred from a single injury the best treatment is to seek immediate medical care as these may have more significant damage and may require surgical repair. 

Rotator cuff injuries fall into three categories: 

  • Tendinitis
  • Bursitis
  • Strains or tears

Tendinitis is the inflammation of the joints and tendons. This is caused by the overuse of the rotator cuff. Typically this injury affects tennis players, painters and those who often have to reach upward to do their job. 

Bursitis is the inflammation of the bursa. Bursa are fluid-filled sacs that sit between the tendons and underlying bone. 

Rotator cuff strains or tears are caused by overuse or acute injury. The tendons can become overstrained or torn partially or completely. These injuries can include slip and falls, car accidents and other sudden injuries. 


  • Dull Ache Deep in the Shoulder
  • Difficulty Extending Your Arms Behind Your Back
  • Pain When Combing Your Hair
  • Arm Weakness
  • Pain Which Prevents Sleeping on the Injured Shoulder
  • Grating or Cracking Sounds When Moving Your Arm
  • Limited Ability to Move Your Arm

You Should See a Doctor If:

These symptoms last longer than one week; you lose function or have weakness in your arm after an injury.


A substantial injury to the arm such as a car accident injury or slip and fall injury. Progressive degeneration or wear and tear on the tendon tissue from activities such as playing sports or painting. Repetitive overhead activity or heavy lifting over a prolonged period of time. 

Risk Factors

  • Age– as you get older your risk for rotator cuff injury may increase. Commonly those who are over the age of 40 shows signs of damage to their rotator cuff 
  • Those who play sports such as baseball, archery, and tennis.
  • Those who work in construction jobs such as carpentry or house painting which require repetitive arm motions
  • Genetics/Family History


Daily shoulder stretches and strengthening exercises can help prevent future injury. If treatment is not sought, rotator cuff problems may lead to permanent loss of range of motion or result in continual weakness. The shoulder joint may progressively degenerate. Additionally, though resting your shoulder can help with your recovery, if you keep your shoulder immobilized for a prolonged time, this can cause connective tissues to become thickened and tight. This condition is often referred to as frozen shoulder. 

When doing every day exercises it’s important to keep your strengthening exercises equal for both the front muscles of the chest, shoulder, and upper arm as well as the back muscles surrounding the shoulder. Your family doctor or physical therapist can help you create a structured exercise plan to maintain and create shoulder balance. 


Doctors use medical history, physical exams and imaging scans such as x-rays or MRI scans to identify rotator cuff injuries. You may be asked questions about physical activities in the workplace along with recreation activities. Your doctor will test your shoulder’s range of motion and strength. With these tests, your doctor will work to rule out conditions such as pinched nerves and arthritis. 


Depending upon the severity of the damage to the muscles and tendons, treatment can include resting along with daily exercises and physical therapy or may require surgery. Seeking treatment after noticing the injury can help prevent further progression of damage to the rotator cuff. 

Nonsurgical treatments such as physical therapy, strengthening exercises and rest from strenuous activities show improvement in about 50% of patients who show symptoms of rotator cuff injury. Other nonsurgical treatments may include heating or icing the affected shoulder, cortisone injections, and taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen. 

Were you or someone you know involved in a recent auto accident? Call Auto Accident Care Network now at 801-683-1948 to connect with a live care advocate. Our team at AACN can connect you to trusted attorneys and doctors to schedule a free legal consultation, a free thirty-minute massage, and a no-cost medical exam!

Comments are closed.