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Nonsurgical Treatment for Rotator Cuff Injury

In many cases, an injured rotator cuff can be treated without surgery. Physical therapy and chiropractic services are the common non-surgical treatment options.

Rotator cuff injury affects the shoulder, and is particularly an injury that affects athletes and active individuals. It can be pretty painful and debilitating. Baseball pitchers are among those who commonly get this injury.

Understanding Rotator Cuff Injury

Rotator Cuff InjuryIf you’re wondering what the “rotator cuff” is, and why it’s so strangely named, here’s the answer. The rotator cuff basically refers to four muscles that perform the task of stabilizing the shoulder and enabling it to move. These muscles enable the shoulder ball to roll and move.

  • Impingements and tears are the most common kinds of rotator cuff injuries. Impingement is when one of the rotator cuff muscles swells the space between the shoulder bones and the arm. This causes pinching. Apart from overuse and muscle strain, bone spurs can also cause swelling.
  • A tear in the rotator cuff can also occur when a muscle or tendon is torn. Most tears do not require surgery, though it does depend on the depth and thickness of the tear, and the muscles that are affected.
  • Repetitive motions overhead can also cause wearing down of the rotator cuff muscle, which explains why baseball pitchers have frequent issues with rotator cuffs. Injury caused by falling on your arms can also result in one of your rotator cuff muscles tearing. The risks increase with age as the body gets more worn out.

Non-surgical Treatment Options

Before we go ahead and explain the nonsurgical options out there, it’s worth reminding you that serious rotator cuff tears would require surgery to set right, especially if athletes or active individuals have been affected who would need to use their arm again for overhead activities. The frequency of these activities would cause more damage to the affected rotator cuff. Many tears usually do not heal by themselves. If nonsurgical options do not succeed in relieving chronic pain and restoring proper movement, the tear could be more serious and you may need surgery.


Exercises play a significant role in recovering from rotator cuff injury. One of the foremost of these is the “RICE” procedure. As soon as injury strikes, the procedures of Rest, Ice application, Compression and Elevated positioning of the affected shoulder (RISE) should be followed in that order. This could help bring the swelling down. Once that has happened, and the pain has subsided, other exercises could help to help prevent loss of range of motion.

Steroid Injections and Anti-inflammatory Medication

Many cases of rotator cuff tears can be effectively treated non-surgically through steroid injections and anti-inflammatory medication. These techniques can help in restoring function to the shoulder.

Manual Physical Therapy

Sports injury physical therapy focuses on rehabilitating and healing the injury suffered by athletes to enable them to return to their sport as soon as possible.

Manual physical therapy is a hands-on treatment that involves joint and tissue manipulation, with the aim to reduce pain and stress in the affected muscles and improve mobility. The procedure involves the practitioner applying tension, pressure and vibration to the affected tissues and structures. Manual physical therapy has to be adapted to the needs of the patient and the injury suffered. Joint manipulation and deep-tissue massage are two of the manual techniques involved.


Taping the affected joint with a special kind of elastic tape can help support and relax the muscles for reducing the pain and inflammation. There are taping options beyond the conventional athletic tape. These advanced options enable total range of motion.

Chiropractic Services

Chiropractic care also helps. It includes ultrasound treatment that makes use of special sound waves to improve the blood flow and reduce pain and muscle stiffness. Spinal manipulation deals with safely making a joint move beyond its regular range of motion. Electrical muscle stimulation makes use of low-frequency electrical pulses for the muscles to contract. This reduces the tension in the muscles and increases the blood flow.

Advanced physical therapy and chiropractic care centers in Brooklyn, NY can provide you with many nonsurgical treatment options for rotator cuff injury.

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