A rotator cuff is a group of four small muscles that offers stability to the shoulder and aids movement. Any injury to these muscles can impact your ability to move your shoulders and causes intense pain in the shoulders. In fact, at 80% occurrence rate, rotator cuff injuries are the most common cause of shoulder pain(1) and disability in adults. It is estimated that nearly 2 million people in the US (2) consult doctors due to a rotator cuff injury. Here is a guide on how to heal a torn rotator cuff naturally.
Types of rotator cuff injuries include:
- Impingement: Impingement is caused by the swelling of the rotator cuff muscles, which cramps up space between the shoulder bones and arm, which results in pinching.
- Tear: The tearing of rotator cuff muscles is a rare occurrence and may be caused due to a fall, car accident, or any other sudden impact injury. A rotator cuff injury could be a partial tear or a full-thickness tear.
The good news is that nearly 50% of individuals(3) with rotator cuff injury can regain their shoulder mobility through non-surgical treatment. The common signs of a torn rotator cuff include:
- Pain while resting at night, especially when laying on the affected shoulder
- Weakness while lifting or rotating your arm
- Crackling sensation (Crepitus) while moving your shoulder a certain way
- Pain while lifting or lowering your arm in specific movements
Read on to know how to fix a torn rotator cuff:
CURE 1: Foods
Here are a few home remedies for a torn rotator cuff that involve food:
The golden spice of turmeric is your answer to how to treat a torn rotator cuff. Read below how to use it:
How Does it Work?
Turmeric is loaded with curcumin(3), which possesses potent anti-inflammatory properties(4). Thus, it can help in alleviating the torn rotator cuff pain and swelling. The antioxidants present in turmeric help the body heal faster.
- A teaspoon of turmeric
- A cup of milk
- Heat the milk, add the turmeric, and bring it to a boil.
- Allow it to simmer for about 5 minutes, then take it off the heat.
- Let the milk cool and drink it.
For best results, drink the turmeric-laced milk at least twice a day.
2. Pineapple Juice
The tropical and fruity flavors of pineapple can help with torn rotator cuff pain relief.
How Does it Work?
Pineapple contains bromelain(5), which is an enzyme possessing anti-inflammatory properties. Studies have discovered that bromelain can help in the growth and repair of tendons.
- A cup of diced pineapple
- Two cups of water
- Blend the pineapple chunks and water together to make your juice.
- Consume it while fresh.
Drink pineapple juice at least once a day.
[Read: Yoga for Shoulder Pain]
CURE 2: Alternative methods
Torn rotator cuff rehabilitation can significantly provide relief from painful symptoms.
Resting is one of the most underrated remedies for treating injuries. Resting can significantly cut down the torn rotator cuff recovery time.
How Does it Work?
Resting protects the muscles from further injury and helps it heal. Make it a point to sleep on your back or on the uninjured side. Research(6) has pointed out that disturbed sleep aggravates shoulder pain and hampers the healing process.
- A rolled towel or a soft pillow
- Sit with your head raised above your shoulder level.
- Place your feet flat on the floor and place the rolled towel below, at your lower back.
Do this position every time you have to sit for longer durations.
2. Applying Cold Compress
Icing any injury is the best way to treat a rotator cuff injury in the first instance.
How Does it Work?
Ice therapy for torn rotator cuff brings down swelling and alleviates the pain(7) in injuries.
- An ice pack (or a bag of frozen vegetables)
- Apply the ice pack to the affected region. However, avoid applying it directly to the skin or it will cause ice burns.
Ice your rotator cuff injury at least four times a day.
[Read: Exercises for Shoulder Pain]
CURE 3: Exercises
If you are wondering what do you do for a torn rotator cuff, the answer is rather simple: exercise. However, torn rotator cuff exercises should be carried out after the inflammation is moderately down, else it may further aggravate the problem.
1. Doorway Stretch
The Doorway Stretch helps in stretching out your muscles and increasing mobility in your shoulders.
- Stand at an open doorway and hold the sides. Ensure that your arms are spread out.
- Grip the doorway tightly at a point below the shoulder-level and lean forward from the doorway until you experience a slight stretching of your shoulder muscles in the front.
- Keep your back straight and shift your weight to your toes.
Do this five days a week.
[Read: Relieve Shoulder Pain Naturally]
2. High to Low Rows
This exercise can strengthen your shoulder and your rotator cuff muscles.
- Hook a resistance band at a height above the shoulder-level.
- Go down on your knee such that the knee opposite to your injured shoulder is raised. Rest your uninjured hand on your knee.
- Hold the band with your injured hand and pull in your elbow towards your body. Squeeze your shoulder blades together as you do that. Repeat 10 times.
Do this exercise three days a week.
3. Reverse Fly
Reverse Fly strengthens the rotator cuff muscles towards the back.
- Keep your feet apart, knees bent, and bend forward at the waist.
- Hold light weights in front of you and extend your arms outwards. Squeeze your shoulder blades together when you do so.
- Bring your arms back down and repeat the exercise 10 times.
Do this exercise 2 times a week.
[ Read: Exercises for Rotator Cuff ]
To enable your body to recover faster, follow the precautions outlined below:
- Avoid any activity that involves holding your arms above your shoulders for long durations.
- Use a stepladder or a stool to reach things at heights
- Sleep with a pillow below the affected shoulder.
- Do not carry a purse or a backpack strapped over the affected shoulder.
- Keep frequently-used items around you so that you don’t have to reach out for them.
If you notice that you may have torn your rotator cuff, start with the RICE technique: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. These methods will bring down the swelling and alleviate any pain. Following this, carry out exercises to reinstate mobility in your shoulders.
Here are a few FAQs related to a torn rotator cuff:
1. Can a torn rotator cuff heal itself without surgery?
Normally, a torn rotator cuff can be treated non-surgically with the help of therapy and NSAIDs.
2. How do you know if you have a torn rotator cuff?
If you have a torn rotator cuff, you will experience a sharp pain in the front of your shoulder, which will radiate down the side of your arm. It may bother you while you sleep or use that arm. You may also experience weakness and difficulty using your arm for regular activities.
3. Can a torn rotator cuff heal on its own?
With proper care, a minor rotator cuff tear can heal on its own.