Health Blog

Rotator Cuff Tears-Causes and Treatment

Rotator cuff tears

Rotator cuff tears are extremely common, especially as we grow older. Up to 30% of the population over the age of 60 have at least a partial rotator cuff tear. In fact, they are so common that many people disregard or are unaware of the symptoms and don’t even realize they have one.

Frequently we hear about rotator cuff tears in connection with baseball players, rowers, swimmers and other athletes.

But did you know that this condition is also common in people who perform repetitive overhead motions or lifting, such as painters, or carpenters?

The risk of a torn rotator cuff also increases with age, because we just start to wear out. If you have been experiencing shoulder pain, you may have a rotator cuff tear. Your shoulder pain may be caused by trauma, an injury, repetitive motions or it may be simply a result of aging.

What is the rotator cuff?

First, it helps to understand just what the rotator cuff is. It consists of a group of four tendons and muscles in the shoulder. These muscles and tendons connect the upper arm to the shoulder-blade. The tendons provide stability to the shoulder and the muscles allow the shoulder to rotate. Damage to your rotator cuff can cause limited range of motion, weakness and pain.

Top 2 Causes of Rotator Cuff Tears

There are two main causes of rotator cuff tears — injury or degeneration.

  1. If you fall and injure your shoulder, or try to break your fall with your arm, or lift a heavy object with a jerking motion, you may have a sudden, or acute tear.
  2. Rotor cuff degeneration occurs when the muscles and tendons wear down over time. Repetitive stress from sports, a job (especially one that requires lifting your arms over your head), or even certain routine chores can cause overuse tears. In addition, as we age, the blood supply to the rotator cuff decreases. Therefore, the body is less able to repair tendon damage naturally. Bone spurs are another effect of aging which leads to shoulder impingement and gradually weakens the tendons.

Common Symptoms

Common symptoms of rotator cuff tears include:

  1. Pain in the shoulder and arm. The pain is commonly located over the outside of the shoulder and upper arm.
  2. Tenderness and weakness in the shoulder.
  3. You may have trouble moving your shoulder, particularly when you are lifting your arm above your head or holding your arm directly out from your body.
  4. Some people find it difficult to go to sleep on the affected shoulder, or pain may awaken them throughout the night.
  5. People who have a rotator cuff tear may have difficulty combing their hair, getting dressed, or doing other activities that require reaching behind their back.
  6. Another warning sign is snapping and crackling sounds when moving the shoulder.

Here’s how to test your shoulder (videos)

Your physical therapist can test the strength of your rotator cuff tendons and establish the extent of the tear.

  1. Which tendon is the most commonly torn? Find out in this video I recorded for people who signed up for my workshop.
  2. What grade is the tear? Learn the 3 grades of tears in this video.
  3. When diagnosing a rotator cuff tear, the doctor may also order an MRI, which can identify both complete and partial rotator cuff tears.

Reducing your risk

While rotator cuff tears are common, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk or to keep a previously injured shoulder pain-free and functional.

  1. Warming up before any vigorous activity is essential. Your warm up should include stretching your arms and shoulders.
  2. When exercising, use small, controlled movements. Using less resistance with more repetitions will help strengthen the shoulder muscles and reduce the risk of injury.
  3. Resting your shoulders before and during a workout or other vigorous activity can relieve stress on the rotator cuff.
  4. If you have had a rotator cuff injury, frequent stretches as well as messages and cold and hot compresses can relieve mild pain and inflammation.


The goal of treatment is to reduce pain and restore strength and function to the shoulder.

Treatment for rotator cuff tears can be either surgical or nonsurgical, depending on a number of factors. These include:

  1. The nature and severity of the tear.
  2. The functional damage
  3. The individual’s regular activity level.

Depending on the nature and severity of your rotator cuff tear, treatment may include:

  1. Medication
  2. Corticosteroid injections
  3. Rest
  4. Physical therapy
  5. Possibly surgery.

Many patients work with a physical therapist to restore strength and motion. A physical therapist can design an individualized treatment plan of exercises, stretches and techniques improve your mobility without putting too much stress on injured muscles and tendons.

If you think you may have a rotator cuff tear, don’t ignore the problem — seek help. Here’s the single biggest #1 mistake I see from people suffering with this condition. If you have an injury to your shoulder and it is very painful, or you cannot move your shoulder normally, seek medical attention immediately. Or if you have had a shoulder problem in the past or home treatment and self-care is not working, call your physical therapist. Rotator cuff tears are frequent, but they are treatable. Seeking treatment will help you minimize or eliminate pain and engage in the activities you love. Generally, the best results occur when the tear is treated sooner rather than later.

Rotator Cuff Tear and Shoulder Pain Workshop

During the workshop, attendees learn natural healing techniques without medications, injections, or surgery.

Here’s what else you’ll learn during the workshop:

  • Know which rotator cuff muscle is affected and the grade of the tear
  • Correct the cause of your pain and speed up the healing process
  • Prevent your shoulder from getting worse, and avoid the single biggest mistake shoulder pain sufferers make

Click here to register for the Valparaiso Rotator Cuff Workshop.

For the Crown Point workshop, click here.

Register here for the LaPorte workshop.

Register here for the Highland workshop.


To your healthy shoulder,

Arlan Alburo


Tags: , ,

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR MAIL LISTDiscover the solution to pain-free living.
Sign up today for monthly health tips.

Our Reviews
bill steinbrecher
bill steinbrecher
21:38 17 Jan 20
I enjoyed each visit at OBTS for each of my therapy sessions. They helped and I felt I was a part of a family as I got to know each of the therapists.
rodney dowell
rodney dowell
22:35 13 Jan 20
Ortho/Balance helped me achieve full movement of my knee after full knee replacement. Their Physical Therapy Dept. is exceptional.I have been to other PT CLINICS; but Ortho/Balance outshines them all by a Hundred fold. They are caring and they don't rush you through. I recommend them above all others, they truly the BEST. I was fortunate to have found them by accident. All the staff are great; but Joe Lucio is top shelf. He is attentive and doesn't hurt you Very gentle and gets the job done. THANK YOU ALL RODNEY DOWELL
Amber Verstat
Amber Verstat
19:17 19 Dec 19
Went in with the most horrible pain in my leg muscles. Staff (Joe worked on me) did a wonderful job helping with pain! I was about to just chop off my leg, honestly. Highly recommend!
Lou Donkle
Lou Donkle
18:47 19 Dec 19
5-stars for the hands-on staff, 1-star for the business policies regarding their high-priced laser treatments. I arrived on my first appointment with a prescription from my doctor for medicare-covered machine-therapy (iontophoresis and ultrasound) plus PT. After a 1-hour evaluation with a therapist, only THEN was I informed they do not offer the medicare-covered machine therapy prescribed by my doctor. Three different people eventually told me that my prescribed medicare-authorized treatment was not supported by medical research and they recommended laser therapy that was NOT covered by medicare and would cost me hundreds of dollars for a series of treatments.I was SHOCKED! I asked ... you mean a medicare-authorized treatment is NOT supported by medical research?! And you cannot provide me exactly what I came here to get?! And you waited until AFTER a 1-hour evaluation before you told me all that?! I was in total disbelief and felt terrible because of all the subtle but polite pressure that was put on me when all I wanted was what my doctor had ordered. Why did they need to make me feel so terrible? I just couldn't believe it.After I asked my questions, the "manager" was consulted several times and I was eventually informed that they COULD do most of what was prescribed by my doctor and it would all be covered by medicare. I felt trapped since I had already been there one hour so proceeded with the treatment. This is where the 5-star rating starts. All hands-on people were OUTSTANDING and the full course of PT fixed my issue 100%.My advice is to be very cautious if you are recommended treatments NOT ordered by your doctor. Otherwise, an excellent place.
Elaine Krause
Elaine Krause
18:18 11 Dec 19
I attended several of the Saturday workshops at OBTS to increase my knowledge as a yoga instructor. Noel’s informative presentations were tailored to meet the needs of those individuals who were present. I took advantage of the free assessment offered to the attendees, and chose to try PT to resolve a minor issue. The therapists did an excellent job correcting the problem quickly. Great team of professionals! Thank you!
Timothy Knopf
Timothy Knopf
20:18 30 Oct 19
Best therapy place around. I would recommend this place to everyone. They have the best group of therapists around.
Mitchell Udowitz
Mitchell Udowitz
20:43 27 Oct 19
I have been to two Physical Therapy places prior to finding Orthopedic & Balance Therapy in Valparaiso. While they were ok they don’t hold a candle to Orthopedic & Balance Therapy. OBT team works as one in harmony and they stay on top of the latest technology for their patients. Their team is so very knowledgeable and very friendly plus they generally care about what they are doing and it shows. They are concerned about the whole person not just the injury they need to be treated for.
Barbara Serynek
Barbara Serynek
18:52 03 Oct 19
The entire staff has been very pleasant, professional and accommodating. Both Kristen and Joe have given me the best massages. Kate and Kollin made sure that I was doing my excercises and helped to move things along. Feeling better every visit. I'm so glad that I chose Orthopedic & Balance.
Heidi Richardson
Heidi Richardson
17:00 19 Sep 19
I went to physical therapy not expecting it to do very much to help because that’s the way I approach everything with low expectations. Noel and his team have made my neck feel so much better that it puts me in a more positive mood each day and I actually feel more positive and more productive on a day-to-day basis..
Christine O'Donnell
Christine O'Donnell
16:26 14 Aug 19
I could barely walk into OBTS six weeks ago. I had very bad lower back and hip pain. The progress has been life changing for me. I always walk out of there with little or no pain. The staff, Laura, Dr Diane, Angie and, of course, Peggy, have taught me so much to keep my pain at bay. I highly recommend this team.
Nancy Guenther
Nancy Guenther
15:28 12 Jul 19
Absolutely awesome! My walking has improved 110%. And my pain level is zero. I highly recommend them. will be amazed how much better you feel.
Tracie Baxter
Tracie Baxter
20:24 03 Jul 19
This was the only place that could help with my TMJ. If you’re suffering from TMJ go see Noel! He really understands the condition. I no long have to deal with constant pain! The whole staff at this office is amazing and very welcoming.
Cindy Standiford
Cindy Standiford
21:33 28 Jun 19
The whole team is great!! I’m getting great care! I recommend Orthopedic & Balance for any issues you might have.
Joseph Mulholland
Joseph Mulholland
19:53 09 May 19
Amazing staff and amazing care. I came in barely able to stand up straight due to a back injury. After 6 weeks, I feel like brand new. Everyone was extremely helpful and easy to work with. Highly recommended!
Trool u
Trool u
19:44 24 Apr 19
I am a PTA student that was required 16 hours of observation time. I had the pleasure of completing my hours at this Valpo location. The staff is incredibly friendly. They were quick to make me feel at home. In a way I was sad to leave, but happy to continue on. I hope to eventually work in this field with a work family this caring and knowledgeable about their profession.
sharon Kramer
sharon Kramer
16:23 18 Apr 19
My experience has been a very enjoyable and rewarding experience in getting me to feeling better.The staff does a remarkable job and are fully qualified in their respective areas. The staff made it fun coming here and they were very caring and helpful with their clients!!
Tim Nash
Tim Nash
15:32 27 Aug 18
My first experience with OBTS was very positive. During the course of my 13 therapy sessions I worked with many different therapists and all of them were professional and competent. They were able to help me effectively control my pain without medication using their therapy program. Unfortunately, they could not get my physical condition back to the same ability as before. However, this is due to the fact that it was later determined by my doctors that I required surgery. I plan on returning to OBTS for my post-op physical therapy and have already scheduled my evaluation appointment. Scheduling seems to be a challenge sometimes but that's probably an indication of their patient's satisfaction and good reviews. Thank you OBTS!
Arlene Gross
Arlene Gross
15:58 22 Jun 18
Everyone that worked with me was helpful. I enjoyed watching the staff interact as they worked as they laughed and smiled making me feel that it was fun to exercise. My knee pain is less and I look forward to having the same results with my back.
Jose Ico
Jose Ico
12:43 27 Apr 18
My wife and I have been coming here for a year. They have wonderful customer service and the treatments were great. I could say that since coming here for treatments, I am now able to walk properly and sleep well at nights. They help you in the best way possible. The people here are great and we definitely recommend it to everyone!
Paul Grant
Paul Grant
21:51 03 Apr 18
I have read lots of reviews that say "the entire staff of ..." is great, and you know that it is BS.. .. Butt at OBTS that statement is true. The person answering the phone, appointment setting they work around my schedule. It is truly a team concept. Everyone that has work with/on me keeps me focus on getting healthy to play golf.... Even those employees that haven't work with/on me are upbeat, positive and encouraging both their patients and me..... follow up phone calls, positive, hand written notes of encouragement, reminding me to do my homework so I can play golf this year. Great Employees, Great Business!.
Diane Burns
Diane Burns
02:30 16 Mar 18
I’ve had an incredible experience here at OBTS. In just two and half weeks I’ve seen and felt remarkable results. My hip mobility has improved by 30%. I credit the excellent physical therapists and the deep tissue laser therapy for my gains. I’ve gone from walking with a limp and pain everyday to walking normally and know that I’ll be back to running in the future. Every single person is warm and friendly here. Great place!
See All Reviews