Authored by Revere Health

Rotator Cuff Tear: Recovery and Treatment

January 3, 2019 | Orthopedics

Every year in the United States, over two million people visit their doctor because of a problem with their rotator cuff. In sports like tennis or baseball and jobs like cleaning windows or painting, a rotator cuff tear is common. Normal wear and tear over time can lead to this injury as you repeat the same motion regularly for years. Rotator cuff tears can also occur suddenly if you lift something heavy or fall on your arm.

Four tendons and muscles make up the rotator cuff, which allows you to rotate and lift your arms and stabilizes the shoulder joint. Injuries weaken the shoulder, and daily activities that were simple and easy before become difficult and painful. Even getting dressed or combing your hair can become a serious chore when you have a shoulder injury.

How do rotator cuff injuries occur?

Your rotator cuff is a group of muscles that cover the head of the humerus (upper arm bone) as they form a covering and come together as tendons.

Between the top of the shoulder bone and the rotator cuff is a bursa, a lubricating sac that allows for free gliding for the rotator cuff tendons as the arms moves. If these tendons are damaged or injured, the bursa may also become painful and inflamed.

Rotator cuff injuries occur when the tendon no longer attaches fully to the head of the upper arm bone. An incomplete tear occurs when the tendon is damaged but not completely severed, and a full-thickness tear occurs when the tendon is completely separated from the bone, leaving a hole in the tendon. Tears can be caused by a sudden injury or repetitive movement and stress to the area over time.

How long does it take to recover from a torn rotator cuff?

If an injury is not treated quickly and you continue to use the shoulder, the problem can quickly get worse. If you have chronic arm or shoulder pain, you should visit a doctor—treating the problem early can get you back to a normal routine faster. Treatment helps restore function and reduce pain and is often based on your general health, activity level, your age and the type of tear you have.

If you opt for surgical treatment, you may be in a sling for four to six weeks. Recovery time depends on how strictly you follow your doctor’s orders in caring for your injury.

What are the best treatments for a rotator cuff tear?

Depending on how severe the injury is, treatment may include:

  • Modification to your activity
  • Rest
  • Anti-inflammatory and nonsteroidal medication
  • Physical therapy and strengthening exercises
  • Steroid injection
  • Surgery

Every injury is unique, and the ideal treatment varies from patient to patient. If you have constant shoulder or arm pain and fear you may have an injury to your rotator cuff, schedule an appointment with a doctor immediately to discuss your options before daily activity makes the damage worse.


Dr. Larsen chose to become an orthopedic surgeon after growing up watching his father work in the same profession. He observed the love his father had for taking care of people and improving lives by fixing problems with their knees and shoulders. Dr. Larsen enjoys communicating with his patients and working together to find a solution, either through surgery or lifestyle changes.




“Rotator Cuff Tears.” OrthoInfo.–conditions/rotator-cuff-tears/

“What Is a Rotator Cuff Tear?” WebMD.

Mitchell Larsen, MD


Mitchell Larsen, MD

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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.