A torn rotator cuff is a common shoulder injury that may be caused by repeated movements while someone is playing sports or performing a job function. With repeated motion, the muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder socket may tear. Other common causes of a torn rotator cuff include falling, or lifting or pulling a heavy object.1A torn rotator cuff can be both painful and inconvenient, which is why it is so important to get a diagnosis early if you think you may have this injury.

4 Common Symptoms of a Torn Rotator Cuff

A rotator cuff tear can be partial, which is when the tendon is damaged but not fully torn. Or it can be a full-thickness tear, which means that the tendon is fully severed. The latter is more serious and typically causes significant pain and movement difficulties.2

Some symptoms of a torn rotator cuff include3:

  • Pain: Many people feel a dull ache in their shoulder joint in association with a torn rotator cuff. The pain is typically felt deep in the joint and can increase with movement of the shoulder.
  • Limited range of motion: If you have a torn rotator cuff, you may find it difficult to reach behind your back, lift your arm over your head, or lift your arm away from your body.
  • Disturbed sleep: Because of the pain in the shoulder, many people find it difficult to sleep, particularly on the side of the injured arm.
  • Weakness: Muscle weakness in the injured arm is a common symptom of a torn rotator cuff.

Diagnosing and Treating a Torn Rotator Cuff

Doctors diagnose rotator cuff injuries by palpating the area and doing a series of range-of-motion tests. They sometimes also use scanning equipment, such as X-rays or MRI, to identify damage to soft tissue in the shoulder joint.4 

Common treatments for a torn rotator cuff may include rest, joint immobilization, cold therapy, and physical therapy. In extreme cases, a doctor may recommend surgery. Surgical repair of severe rotator cuff injuries may help reduce the risk of the injury recurring.5

Shoulder injuries such as a torn rotator cuff should be treated immediately to prevent further damage. Using a combination of active compression and cryotherapy is one way to help injured tissues heal while helping to reduce pain and inflammation at the same time. Both cold and compression may alleviate swelling, change cellular metabolism, and promote healing.6,7

Speak with your doctor if you are interested in cold and compression therapy for your recovery. 



  1. What is a rotator cuff tear? WebMD. Accessed May 18, 2019. https://www.webmd.com/pain-management/rotator-cuff-tear#1.
  2. Armstrong AD, Athwal GS. Rotator cuff tears. OrthoInfo. https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/rotator-cuff-tears/. Published March 2017.
  3. Rotator cuff tears. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/8291-rotator-cuff-tears-overview. Published July 13, 2016.
  4. Rotator cuff injury. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/rotator-cuff-injury/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20350231. Published May 17, 2018.
  5. Gerber C, Fuchs B, Hodler J. The results of repair of massive tears of the rotator cuff. The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery. 2000;82(4). https://journals.lww.com/jbjsjournal/Abstract/2000/04000/The_Results_of_Repair_of_Massive_Tears_of_the.6.aspx.
  6. Bleakley C, McDonough S, Macauley D. The use of ice in the treatment of acute soft-tissue injury: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. The American Journal of Sports Medicine. 2004;32(1):251-261. doi:10.1177/0363546503260757.
  7. Kraemer WJ, Bush JA, Wickham RB, et al. Influence of compression therapy on symptoms following soft tissue injury from maximal eccentric exercise. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy. 2001;31(6):282-290. doi:10.2519/jospt.2001.31.6.282.