5 Best Rotator Cuff Exercises For a Tear

What is the Rotator Cuff?

By: Andy Godek, Physical Therapist/Certified Athletic Trainer

The rotator cuff is a group of muscles that originate along the shoulder blade and attach to the front of the shoulder. Their responsibility is to help stabilize the shoulder, as well as lift and rotate the arm for activities such as reaching, lifting, grooming and bathing.

Here is an anatomy video outlining the structure of the rotator cuff.

Shoulder AnatomyShoulder Anatomy

How Do You Tear The Rotator Cuff and What Are The Symptoms?

Common methods of tearing the rotator cuff include falling on the arm or hand, repetitive motions resulting in wear and tear, and/ or wear and tear due to general aging. 

If you have a rotator cuff tear, you may experience symptoms such as pain at the top and front of the injured shoulder, or even pain down the upper arm. Other symptoms include swelling, limitations in the ability to raise the arms overhead or lift items.



How Do You Treat a Rotator Cuff Tear?

Rotator Cuff Tears vary in the severity, location and type. Therefore, treatment will also vary. But, some of these steps may help decrease your pain and subsequent limitations.

Best treatments for a rotator cuff tear:

  • Rest
  • Activity modification 
  • Ice
  • Anti-inflammatories
  • Physical therapy
  • Orthopaedic consult 

1.  Rest and activity modification: limit the way you are doing certain activities. If it hurts to reach behind and overhead, limit how often you are completing those motions, to decrease the stress on the tendon. 

Changing positions in how you sleep may also help the pain, and allow you to get a better night’s sleep.

Rest is equally important to help reduce the amount of inflammation around the joint, but be careful with too much rest. Not using the arm or severely limiting the motion of the arm can lead to frozen shoulder.

2. Ice: Ice is highly recommended to assist in reducing inflammation in the shoulder. Applying ice also helps to reduce the pain associated with the tear.  

3. Anti-inflammatories: Anti-inflammatory medications can be helpful in assisting in controlling the inflammation associated with the pain of a rotator cuff tear. In the event that you choose to take an anti-inflammatory, make sure you check with your physician for direction on use and duration.

4. Physical Therapy: The idea of physical therapy is to strengthen the muscles around the shoulder joint, to assist in reducing the amount of stress on the torn tendon and the surrounding shoulder girdle. 

Range of Motion, postural strengthening and awareness and rotator cuff strengthening are essential to reducing the amount of stress on the rotator cuff tendon that is torn. 

There are many exercises that are beneficial to assist in treating the symptoms of a rotator cuff tear, but here are just a few that may help your case.

5.Orthopaedic Specialist: In any event, it may be best to seek treatment from an orthopedic physician to assist in the care of a rotator cuff tear.

Other than ice, anti-inflammatories and activity modification, a physician may recommend steroid injections or even the need for surgery to repair the torn tendon. 


Are you interested in learning more? Check out this video on common rotator cuff injuries here! OurTrending Library also has other articles which may be of interest to you. 

If you need to schedule an appointment with a Rotator Cuff Orthopedic Specialist, please click below.


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