Rotator cuff strain can be treated in a number of ways, depending on the severity of the injury. Minor shoulder pain usually responds to rest, stretching, use of ice or heat, or over-the-counter pain relievers. If your strained rotator cuff continues to cause you pain, you might try exercise therapy under the supervision of a physical therapist. For severe shoulder pain, you should talk to your doctor about steroid injections. If you have a rotator cuff tear, you might need to opt for surgery.
Symptoms of shoulder strain, such as shoulder tendinitis, can be treated by rest. Limit the range of motion of your arms until you feel better. To help with rotator cuff inflammation, try ice; apply a cold pack to your shoulder at regular intervals of 15 to 20 minutes. Once your rotator cuff inflammation has lessened, you can use a heating pad to soothe and relax your shoulder muscles.
If you're experiencing pain from shoulder overuse, you might want to take over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These OTC remedies aren't for everybody. Since NSAIDs shouldn't be taken by people who have conditions such as liver disease, heart disease, or diabetes, talk to your doctor before taking these medications to treat your rotator cuff strain.
Many people who suffer from rotator cuff strain, such as that caused by a sports or pitching injury, find relief with exercise therapy. Your doctor or physical therapist will advise you on the best exercises to perform that will improve the strength and flexibility of your shoulder muscles, reduce your pain, and increase your range of motion. Physical therapy can take several weeks or months to be effective, depending on the type and the severity of your injury.
If your rotator cuff injury doesn't respond to more conservative treatments, ask your doctor about taking cortisone injections, or steroid shots, to relieve your pain. The medication is injected into the area of inflammation, such as your rotator cuff tendons. Corticosteroids will work to lessen the inflammation, thereby relieving your pain. The steroid shots start working within a few days of being given, and their beneficial effects usually last for several weeks.
To treat severe rotator cuff strain that results from a tear, such as in the deltoid muscle, surgery is sometimes recommended. A partial tear may only require debridement, a procedure that trims and smooths the tear. If a tendon has suffered a complete tear, surgery involves suturing the parts of the tendon back together. In rotator cuff tears in which the tendon has torn completely away from the bone, surgery will be needed to re-anchor it. Complete replacement of the shoulder joint may be necessary in extreme cases, such as those exacerbated by arthritis.
Most surgical procedures to treat rotator cuff strain can be done on an outpatient basis. Following surgery, your arm will be immobilized so that your shoulder can heal. Once you are able to move your arm again, you'll follow an exercise regimen intended to strengthen your shoulder and help you regain your arm's full range of motion.