Torn Rotator Cuff – Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Posted on January 5th, 2017 by Orthopaedic Specialty Group

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Torn rotator cuffs are one of the most common shoulder injuries, with an estimated 3 million occurrences per year. If you suffer from a torn rotator cuff, it is important to be well-informed so you can make educated decisions about your health and treatment.

Read below to learn about the common causes, symptoms, and treatment options for rotator cuff tears:


The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that come together as tendons to keep your shoulder in its socket. Any of these four muscles can tear, however the supraspinatus is the most prone to injury.

There are two main causes for rotator cuff tears:

  • Injury. Injury-related rotator cuff tears usually happen in one of two ways: falling on an outstretched arm, or lifting something too heavy with a jerking motion. This type of tear often coincides with other shoulder injuries, such as a broken collarbone or dislocated shoulder.
  • Degeneration. Most torn rotator cuffs are the result of your tendons slowly wearing down over time. This can be caused by repetitive motions (such as throwing), a lack of blood supply, or bone spurs in the shoulder continuously rubbing against the tendons.


Common symptoms of a torn rotator cuff include:

  • Pain in the shoulder and arm.
  • Weakness and tenderness in the shoulder.
  • Difficulty reaching your arm above your head or behind your back.
  • Popping or grinding sounds when you move your shoulder.
  • Pain or difficulty sleeping on your side.


While torn rotator cuffs are a very painful injury, the good news is that many can heal on their own, especially if it is only a partial tear. Here are a few things you can do at home to treat your injury:

  • Rest the joint.
  • Ice your shoulder.
  • Use anti-inflammatory painkillers.
  • Perform range of motion exercises.

If the pain still persists, you may be dealing with a full tear. In this case, it is recommended to seek medical attention. Your doctor may recommend one of the following treatment options:

  • Injections.
  • Physical therapy.
  • Arthroscopic surgery.

If you are suffering from a torn rotator cuff, help is available at Orthopaedic Specialty Group. As southern Connecticut’s largest and most experienced orthopedic practice, you can count on our team of shoulder specialists to get you on the road to recovery. Request an appointment online, or call (203) 337-2600.