Will a Torn Rotator Cuff Heal Without Surgery?

A torn rotator cuff can be caused by a sudden trauma to the shoulder during a sports activity or simply by repetitive movement and overuse of the joint. Small tears can develop and can be painful, limiting your daily activities. If the tears are not severe and with your dedication to a therapy program, a torn rotator cuff injury can heal without surgery.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.

Initial Treatment

To avoid surgery for a torn rotator cuff, the sooner you take action, the better your chance for recovery. Activities that are causing pain, such as reaching overhead, heavy lifting or job-related activities that may aggravate the shoulder, will need to stop. It will be important to immobilize the shoulder with a sling, ice the shoulder two to three times each day and take anti-inflammatory medication for the pain and swelling. Icing should be done for 15 to 20 minutes each session. After two days, start alternating the icing sessions with heat. This will draw blood to the injured area and promote healing.

Physical Therapy

Most minor rotator cuff tears can heal without surgery with a good stretching and exercise program. Once the pain has eased, it will be necessary to begin a stretching routine to keep the shoulder flexible and promote healing. A physical therapist can suggest a strengthening exercise routine that should be followed daily. Icing should always be performed after exercising to ease any pain or swelling. Success in healing a rotator cuff tear without surgery will be dependent upon how well you adhere to the rehabilitation routine.


If it is too painful to do stretching or strengthening exercises, consider having a cortisone injection. This will have to be prescribed and administered by a doctor. It will ease the pain long enough to allow you to continue exercising to promote healing and strengthening. A full recovery from a torn rotator cuff without surgery will require patience, commitment and self-discipline and can take weeks and months of physical therapy.