Rotator Cuff Therapy Exercises

Torn Rotator Cuff Symptoms

Torn rotator cuff symptoms consist of pain and weakness. Each of these symptoms will vary from person to person but this is the norm.

The extent of the pain and weakness will largely depend on three things.

  1. The severity of the rotator cuff tear.
  2. Any associated rotator cuff damage that may have been caused at the time of the injury.
  3. Your age and general level of fitness


The pain is felt most often on the back and towards the point of the shoulder.

It can, on occasions, radiate all the way down the affected arm to the fingers.

The pain can be made worse if the affected arm is raised or extended.

Pain from a rotator cuff tear, added to the weakness caused by the tear, means even simple overhead tasks are often impossible.

Torn Rotator Cuff SymptomsReaching for things from upper kitchen cupboards, pulling on a sweater and stretching the arm in any way are often painful. 

A regular complaint is pain at night. For me personally this was one of the worst torn rotator cuff symptoms.

Sleeping on the affected shoulder meant constantly waking through the night. I found having my sleep patterns disturbed to such an extent was worse than dealing with the pain.

The onset of the pain can be both acute and chronic.

  1. Acute is as a result of an identifiable incident such as an accident or trip.
  2. Chronic, is as a result of a gradual weakening over time.
  3. Mixture a gradual weakening followed by an acute incident



Shoulder weakness is the most common symptom of a torn rotator cuff. The weakness anyone experiences is dependant upon a number of factors, the top five being

  1. If it is a full or partial tear
  2. Size of the tear
  3. Which tendon is torn
  4. How many tendons are torn
  5. Your age and general level of fitness


Sometimes those things that cause the pain detailed above become impossible due to the weakness experienced. A number of people simply find it impossible to raise the affected arm. For those unfortunate to have a tear, that bad, getting dressed unaided is virtually impossible.


As with all things in life, there are exceptions. A percentage of people who suffer a tear will have no associated pain. Others will notice no obvious weakening of the shoulder. Without the normal torn rotator cuff symptoms their injuries are said to be asymptomatic.


A proper diagnosis from a physician is essential. You may feel you have classic torn rotator cuff symptoms, but do you? Go to see a doctor. They will ask you about your medical history and what activities you can do and what makes the symptoms worse.
You may be referred for further tests such as an X-ray, ultrasound or MRI scan so that your doctor can look at your shoulder in more detail.
This is important because not all shoulder pain is as a result of a rotator cuff tear. It is true that the major cause of pain in the shoulder is related to the rotator cuff but that is not the only cause.

Shoulder conditions
What other conditions may be causing your shoulder to be weak and painful?

  1. A frozen shoulder which is most common in those over 40. It causes the shoulder joint to become stiff and painful
  2. A fracture is a crack or full break of a bone. Often a very painful impact related injury
  3. Arthritis can affect bones as well as the surrounding muscles and tendons.
  4. Shoulder dislocation - the ball of the humerus comes out of shoulder socket.
  5. Heart attack? Often pain in the shoulder is associated with much more serious conditions


Initial treatment by the R.I.C.E. method is often appropriate initially.  Longer term, exercises for rotator cuff muscles and tendons are the preferred option.

Surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff is not likely to be a first option. Unless the patient is young, has suffered a significant tear or is a sports professional exercise will be the recommended treatment option.

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