What Does A Torn Rotator Cuff Feel Like & How Long Does a Rotator Cuff Injury Take To Heal?

Rotator cuff injury is one of the common causes of shoulder pain in individuals. To ensure that your shoulder pain is only because of torn rotator cuff, it is important to study the causes of pain, symptoms and also the reason of such condition. It is important to know what it feels like to have a torn rotator cuff and how long does rotator cuff injury take to heal. This information can give you an insight into understanding the possibility of rotator cuff in your case and prompt you to seek timely medical opinion.

Torn rotator cuff can be defined as a tear in one or more of the tendons of the four rotator cuff muscles of the shoulder. This rotator cuff tear can be chronic or acute due to pathological reason or traumatic injury.

What Does A Torn Rotator Cuff Feel Like?

When you wonder what it feels like to have a torn rotator cuff, you need to know the signs and symptoms of torn rotator cuff. Some of the commonest signs of what rotator cuff looks like include

What Does A Torn Rotator Cuff Feel Like?


The pain occurring from rotator cuff injury occurs at the outer side of shoulder and the upper arm. Such pain also occurs while performing overhead activities or usually happens in the night. If in case the torn rotator cuff is serious, then the pain might awaken the patients from sleep and make them feel stressed.

Decreased Strength

Strength of each rotator cuff tendons can be tested separately by the doctor. They can isolate each tendon and work to find out the extent of tear on each one of them. If in case, significant tears have occurred, the patient will find it difficult to raise their arms over head. Individuals might also find it difficult to hold arm directly out from the body and this is one of the prominent signs of rotator cuff tear.

Inability To Do Normal Tasks

Individuals suffering from rotator cuff tear find it difficult to perform their day to day activities, which include combing their hair, sleeping on the affected shoulder, hooking or unhooking their bra buttons etc. While approaching the doctor patient should ensure to specify activities which have got limited due to shoulder pain.

When patients experience these problems there is a possibility of rotator cuff injury. Once you know that this is what a torn rotator cuff looks like, you can proceed towards medical advice for proper diagnosis.

Diagnosis of Rotator Cuff Injury

If in case patients are diagnosed with the above symptoms of rotator cuff injury, they will be probably ordered following tests. The diagnosis of a torn rotator cuff depends on the underlying causes and previous history of injury in correlation with the scans.

  • History and physical examination: It is one of the best ways with the help of which patient can be evaluated initially. Doctor should identify the places from where pain approaching the shoulder, like it might be neck or even the heart of an individual.
  • X-Rays: Even though X-rays does not display any rotator cuff muscles, but it is still helpful in giving some clarity to the doctors. Doctors can find if there is arthritis or bone problem in the patient, which is leading to rotator cuff tears.
  • MRI: It is one of the most common and effective methods, which can be used for diagnosing patients suffering from rotating cuff tears. MRI testing can be used for looking into the tears or inflammation of tissues. This further helps in finding out the extent and character of tear, such that appropriate treatment can be suggested to the patient.

How Is a Torn Rotator Cuff Treated?

Treatment of a torn rotator cuff majorly concentrates on managing the pain and swelling occurring in the patient. Some of the essential steps taken towards its treatment include

Physical Therapy

Doctor often after seeing the condition of patient and refers them to physical therapist. The therapy majorly consists of stretching exercises which can restore motion and reduce pain. Once pain gets controlled with these exercises, patients are also guided towards exercises which can help them regain strength in their body, arm and shoulder.


They form an essential part of the treatment, of a torn rotator cuff especially when pain cannot be controlled by using primitive methods. Steroid injections are preferred in patients to enable them reduce inflammation and also reduce pain.


For patients on whom exercises or steroids are unsuccessful, doctors consider surgical treatment for rotator cuff injury. Most of the patients observe tremendous recovery after surgery. The simplest form of surgery i.e. arthroscopy is chosen for patients wherein two or three cuts are placed around the shoulder to help doctor insert various instruments. Out of different instruments, one of it is camera which supports doctor to see the damaged area and treat the same.

Apart from the treatments undertaken by doctor, the patients are also recommended to take these preventive steps as mentioned below:

  • Refrain from activities that causes pain or can aggravate pain in an individual.
  • Application of cold packs at least three or four times in a day such that pain area can witness considerable improvements.
  • Non-steroidal inflammatory drugs help to control pain in a torn rotator cuff and in faster recovery.

How Long Does Rotator Cuff Injury Take To Heal?

The answer to the question, how long dies a rotator cuff injury take to heal, depends on various factors as mentioned below:

  1. Cause of torn rotator cuff.
  2. Size of the tear on your body.
  3. The duration since the tear been present on your body.
  4. Age of an individual suffering from tear also has an impact on the healing process. If in case, an individual is young and healthy he might take less time in healing in comparison to the person who is old and weak.
  5. Individuals who have been treated using primitive methods recover at a much faster pace in comparison to individuals who have been treated using surgical methods. Surgery is said to leave cuts on the body of individual which needs good time to heal and get back to normal.

On an average, with appropriate treatment for a torn rotator cuff, it may take around four to six months to heal. However, it depends on the severity of the injury, type of treatment and the rehabilitation.

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:May 26, 2023

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