Rotator Cuff Injury Treatment Options

Posted on July 25, 2022 in Shoulder by Dr. Chris O'Grady

Rotator cuff injuries are a very common cause of pain and disability. In 2008, nearlytwo million Americanssought medical treatment for problems with their rotator cuffs. The rotator cuff is made up of four muscles in the shoulder, and these muscles provide stability and flexibility for the shoulder joint. When any of these muscles are injured, the result is weakness in the shoulder, reduced mobility, and significant pain.Signs of a rotator cuff injury include:

  • Sharp pain with certain shoulder motion
  • Pain at rest described as an "ache" in the front of the shoulder
  • Reduced mobility.
  • Difficulty completing activities behind the back and over the head, such as combing the hair or zippering zippers behind the back.
  • Weakness in the arm.
  • Difficulty sleeping, especially while lying on the affected shoulder.

Treatment Options

There are both surgical and non-surgical treatment options available for repairing a damaged rotator cuff. After performing a comprehensive physical examination and assessing the results of imaging tests, such as X-rays and MRI scans, you and your orthopaedic surgeon will discuss and determine the best treatment option for you.Non-SurgicalThe majority of the people who are diagnosed with a rotator cuff injury do not require surgical treatment. Nonsurgical treatments can be highly effective for relieving pain and improving the function of the shoulder. Nonsurgical treatment options for a rotator cuff injury may include:

  • Rest. Your doctor may suggest that you rest your shoulder and limit the amount of overhead activities that you participate in. A sling may also be prescribed for a short time to protect the shoulder and keep it still while it is not in use.
  • Modification of Activities. Activities that cause pain in the shoulder should be avoided.
  • Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Medications. Over-the-counter medications, such as naproxen and ibuprofen, can reduce the pain and swelling in the shoulder.
  • Physical Therapy. During physical therapy, exercises will help to reduce pain, improve strength, and restore the movement of the shoulder.
  • Steroid Injections. Injections of local anesthetic and cortisone preparation may help to reduce pain and restore mobility.


Arthroscopic surgery is the most common surgical treatment for repairing a damaged rotator cuff. This type of surgery is minimally invasive, is less painful, and allows for quicker recovery. Your orthopaedic surgeon may recommend arthroscopic surgery for the following reasons:

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