Can a Rotator Cuff Injury Heal on Its Own?

Apr 15, 2024

The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that surround your shoulder joint. Its job is to keep the head of your upper arm bone inside the shallow socket of your shoulder, and rotator cuff injuries happen when these muscles and tendons get damaged.

These injuries are common, and if you find yourself dealing with shoulder pain and limited mobility, you might be wondering what your next steps should be. It can be tempting to wait and see if your rotator cuff injury heals on its own, but delaying treatment may only delay healing.

Our team at Cascade Orthopaedics specializes in rotator cuff injuries and other shoulder disorders. We can help you find the answers you need. Here’s what you need to know about the types of rotator cuff injuries and what to expect during recovery.

Understanding the types of rotator cuff injuries

Rotator cuff injuries can range from mild inflammation to complete tears, and we categorize them based on their severity:

  • Tendinitis — The tendons in your rotator cuff get irritated or inflamed
  • Partial tears — A tendon or muscle is damaged, but not completely severed
  • Complete tears — A tendon or muscle is separated from the bone

If you have a rotator cuff injury, you might be wondering if it will heal on its own. And the answer is: It depends on the severity of your injury and your specific situation.

Can rotator cuff injuries heal on their own?

The human body has remarkable healing power, but not all injuries heal on their own. The best thing to do when you suffer a rotator cuff injury is to seek a professional evaluation.

Our team examines your injury and diagnoses your condition. Then we develop a personalized treatment plan to support your body’s natural healing process.

Tendinitis and other mild rotator cuff injuries often respond well to rest, ice, and over-the-counter pain relievers. Physical therapy exercises aimed at strengthening your shoulder muscles can accelerate healing.

Partial tears present a more complicated scenario. Some partial tears may improve without surgery, using treatments similar to those for mild injuries. But they often require a longer period of rest and more focused physical therapy to regain strength and flexibility without worsening the injury.

More severe partial tears and complete tears rarely heal with conservative measures alone. In these cases, we may recommend surgery to reattach the tendon to the bone. Post-surgery, physical therapy plays a vital role in recovery to help restore function and prevent future injuries.

More about the factors that influence healing

Every individual and every injury is unique, and there are several factors we consider when developing your treatment plan. For example, athletes and people with physically demanding jobs may need more aggressive treatment to return to their previous activity levels.

People with better overall health and those who follow a prescribed treatment plan, including physical therapy, have a better chance of healing. Older individuals tend to have a slower healing process, and their injuries may be more likely to require surgery.

We consider your overall health, your medical history, and other relevant information to make the best recommendations for your needs. As always, our goal is to help you regain function and mobility as quickly — and safely — as possible.

Do you think you have a rotator cuff injury? Don’t wait to see if it will heal on its own. Get professional care to start healing faster. Schedule a consultation with our team at Cascade Orthopaedics online or call our office in Auburn or Bonney Lake, Washington, today.