The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that attach to the bones of the shoulder joint, allowing the shoulder to move and remain stable.
Common rotator cuff problems include:
Medicines, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, may help reduce swelling and pain. If you take these medicines every day, tell your doctor so that your general health can be monitored.
Moist heat, such as a hot bath, shower, or a heat pack, can help when you feel pain in your shoulder. An ice pack applied to the shoulder 20 minutes at a time, 3 to 4 times a day, may also help when you're in pain.
Learn how to care for your shoulder to avoid placing extra stress on it. This can help you heal from an injury and avoid re-injury.
Your positions and posture during the day and night can also help relieve some of your shoulder pain:
Other tips for taking care of your shoulder include:
Your doctor will likely refer you to a physical therapist to learn exercises for your shoulder.
It is best to avoid playing sports until you have no pain during rest or activity. Also, when examined by your doctor or physical therapist, you should have:
Returning to sports and other activity should be gradual. Ask your physical therapist about the proper technique you should use when doing your sports or other activities that involve a lot of shoulder movement.
Matsen FA III, Fehringer EV, Lippitt SB, Wirth MA, Rockwood CA. Rotator cuff. In: Rockwood CA, Matsen FA III, Wirth MA, et al., eds. The Shoulder. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2009:chap 17.
O’Brien MJ, Leggin BG, Williams GR. Rotator cuff tendinopathies and tears: surgery and therapy. In: Skirven TM, Osterman AL, Fedorczyk JM, Amadio PC, eds. Rehabilitation of the Hand and Upper Extremity. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2011:chap 88.
Updated by: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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