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How to Treat a Rotator Cuff Injury at Home

author image Hannah Rice Myers
Based in Jamestown, Pa., Hannah Rice Myers has more than 10 years of experience as a freelance writer, specializing in the health industry. Many of her articles have appeared in newspapers, as well as "Curing Epilepsy: Hope Through Research." Rice Myers received her master's degree in nursing from Upstate Medical University in 2001.

According to, a rotator cuff injury is one of the most common shoulder injuries. It often makes it painful and difficult to move the injured arm or shoulder until the muscles have strengthened and the injury has healed. But since most rotator cuff injuries heal on their own, in most cases, these injuries can be treated at home, according to the medical experts at the Mayo Clinic.

Step 1

Apply ice and heat. Apply an ice pack for 15 to 20 minutes every 2 hours the first two days, which will help reduce inflammation and relieve the pain. For the next five days, apply a heating pad for 20 minutes. Doing this two to three times a day will help relax muscles that have stiffened.

Step 2

Use over-the-counter pain relievers. The best over-the-counter medications are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drugs such as ibuprofen, aspirin or naproxen. The doctors at Mayo Clinic state that acetaminophen may also help reduce pain; however, it will not reduce the swelling.

Step 3

Rest the injured shoulder. According to the Mayo Clinic, resting the injured shoulder for a period of four to seven days may be enough to heal the injury. During this time, avoid heavy lifting and any activity that may require you to raise your arm above your head. If the injury occurred because of your profession (e.g., playing baseball, swimming, painting or carpentry), take a break until your injury is healed.

Step 4

Perform muscle strengthening exercises. Exercises geared specifically to rotator cuff injuries not only helps heal your injury, it also keeps your muscles limber and the surrounding muscles strengthened, thus preventing a frozen shoulder. This is a condition that affects your ability to move your arm at all.

A great exercise for rotator cuff injuries is as follows: Lie on a table or bed, on your stomach, and place a weight in the hand of the affected shoulder. Keeping your bent elbow at a 90 degree angle, lift the arm out in front of you until it's level with your shoulder. Slowly lower the arm until it is facing straight down, then raise it again. Repeat this exercise 20 to 30 times, or until your arm is slightly fatigued. Begin with a two-ounce weight initially and try to perform these exercises three to five times a week. For more exercises, see the link in Resources.

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