More than two million people every year experience rotator cuff injuries. If you’re one of them, find out how to get relief.
The rotator cuff is a group of four, very important tendons and muscles that encompass the shoulder joint. When the tendons in the shoulder joint are injured, it’s called a rotator cuff injury. Torn or inflamed tendons can’t function properly and cause severe pain and loss of movement.
I know first hand how debilitating and frustrating a torn rotator cuff is. Finding pain relief for a torn rotator cuff can seem daunting, but it is possible. And best of all, you can heal a torn rotator cuff without going under the knife.
But isn’t surgery the only cure for a torn rotator cuff?
No, and in fact, surgery can worsen rotator cuff pain, and the long-term outcomes aren’t always favorable. I had a rotator cuff tear in each shoulder, so you’d think surgery would be my only option, right?
When I was first diagnosed with torn rotator cuffs, I researched my options diligently, and I didn’t like the idea of surgery and how long my recovery time would be. Also, surgery would require me to keep the joints immobile for an extended period, which could lead to increased stiffness, loss of mobility, and a host of other problems. With two torn rotator cuffs, I needed the use of my shoulders, and fast!
After a lot of research, I decided to try home care remedies instead. I would give my shoulders the best possible environment to heal the tears on their own.
The good news? My research paid off, and both of my rotator cuff tears healed without surgical intervention.
If you don’t want to undergo major and painful rotator cuff surgery, it’s possible for you to heal your rotator cuff injury with diligent home remedies and lots of rest. I’ll show you how I did it.
1. You’ll need several pain relieving oils and creams.
I used up to three different topical analgesics. It’s best to apply them in a rotating schedule, so you don’t build up a tolerance to them all at once. There are many different, effective analgesic creams on the market. Salonpas makes several inexpensive lidocaine sprays, and Tiger Balm sells highly concentrated pain relief balms. Apply these diligently each day, along with cold, and then heat therapies.
Right after the injury is when the pain will be most severe. Applying ice packs for about fifteen minutes at a time, two to three times per day will help cut down on some of the pain. Cold can reduce swelling and painful inflammation. But after about two days, you’ll want to move on to heat treatment methods to speed up healing and loosen up any stiffness in the joints.
3. Heat Therapy
For torn rotator cuffs, you’ll need a large heating pad. Heat will improve circulation and blood flow to the torn tendons. Blood delivers vital, healing nutrients to the area which will speed your healing process. But bear in mind that you only want to use heat pads for about twenty minutes at a time when you feel the shoulders starting to stiffen. Too much heat can cause skin burns or irritation, and at some point, it loses its therapeutic effects.
You can find relatively inexpensive heat pads, and heat wraps on Amazon. Many heating pads come with safety shut-offs or timers, so if you happen to fall asleep with a heating pad on, you won’t have to worry about burning yourself. Place the heating pad over the top of the shoulder for twenty minutes, two to three times per day.
Soaking in a warm bath or taking a hot shower can help bring quick relief to a stiff, torn rotator cuff, too.
4. Get plenty of rest.
You’ll want to rest the injured shoulder for at least four to seven days. Don’t do any heavy lifting or activities that require you to raise your arm above your head. But it’s crucial that you get back to moving the joints after about a week, which brings me to my next point.
5. Gentle exercise is key.
My doctor recommended swimming to help heal my shoulder injury. The water helps to cushion and support the shoulder, and swimming exercises are gentle enough for rotator cuff injuries. The wrong exercises can make a tear worse, so make sure you talk to your doctor before you do any exercises, even aquatic ones.
If you don’t keep the joint loose and work on strengthening the shoulder muscles, you can end up with what’s called a frozen shoulder. A frozen shoulder means you can’t move your shoulder at all.
6. Use a Tens machine.
Tens machines are noninvasive and use gentle pulses to stimulate the nerve endings and signal the brain to produce natural pain-relieving endorphins. I used a Tens machine diligently while my rotator cuff injuries healed. You'll need to experiment with placing the electrodes, but once you find the right place, leave the device on for about 30 minutes.
What about wearing a shoulder brace?
My doctor also recommended wearing a shoulder brace. For me, it didn’t work. I found the brace not only uncomfortable but hard to place as well. The brace kept slipping off, and with two torn rotator cuffs, it was frustrating and painful to keep trying to put it back on.
Should you get a cortisone shot?
Cortisone shots are incredibly effective for relieving rotator cuff pain. Cortisone is a steroid which offers superior anti-inflammatory pain relief, reducing swelling and helping to loosen up the joint. An orthopedic doctor can administer cortisone shots to your rotator cuff injury.
How long did it take me to heal from not one, but two rotator cuff injuries?
With diligent home care, lots of rest, and a combination of different therapies, it took me six months to completely heal from my torn rotator cuffs. Every person’s recovery timeline is going to be different though. But I want to stress that the best way to cure a torn rotator cuff is by combining different, effective home remedy treatments, exercises, and steroid shots. Using multiple strategies is going to help you heal faster.
It is possible to heal a severe rotator cuff injury without surgery, and I’m living proof of that. If you're leery of going under the knife for a torn rotator cuff, try these different treatment methods at home, and you’re guaranteed to get pain relief and healing for your shoulder injury.