T Nation

Torn Rotator Cuff, Help?


I was doing flat barbell bench presses to the neck(to target upper pecs more), I know it's stressful to the shoulder capsule but I only do them once in a while for variety and never really had a problem with them until the other day.

On my fourth set I felt a sudden twinge of pain in my rear delt and racked the bar. As the day passed I could not lift my arm up to the front as in a front raise or to the side as in a lateral raise. Bent over rear db raises not so bad and rowing movements are fine. Once I get my arm overhead I'm fine as in overhead pressing.

I always had slight clicking and tendonitis in this shoulder for years, now I'm afraid I've got a partial tear. Anyone with any experience in this? Recovery, rehab or surgery?


If your rotator cuff is torn, you should see a significant drop in medial deltoid strength (lateral raised). Do you?

PArtial tears can be operated on as an outpatient procedure. Nothing to worry about. GEt an MRI scan and show it to an orthopedist. Get it treated soon.


Worst thing you can do is put off seeing a doctor. If it's a minor tear the doc can get you on a rehab program and you'll be as good as new in no time and if it�??s a major tear you need to get it repaired immediately anyway or you'll end of with an even worse shoulder problem.

I made that mistake when I had a slap tear in my right shoulder. I put off getting it looked at and kept trying to train around it and because of the way my body overcompensated for the injury I ended up tearing the rotator in my left shoulder and ended up having to go under the knife for both shoulders and couldn't lift for almost 7 months. Be smart and get it looked at ASAP. Good luck.


Thanks Robo, I'm making an appointment as soon as possible. I'm pretty sure I have a tear since I can't lift my arm out to the side or straight up front. Not sure how severe though. How long after surgery to get back to normal? Also is surgery always necessary or can someone get by with just rehab? Thanks.


A tear can only be treated surgically? If a tear is so small that it rehabs by itself, you will not have much trouble with working your shoulders in the vertical plane besides some slight pain. GEt an MRI before going to see the doctor.


See a doctor and get an MRI. A full tear requires surgery, a partial tear CAN be rehabbed. I have a partial tear in my left shoulder (rotator cuff) in which I had a cortisone shot, 2 weeks of anti-inflammatories and 4 weeks of therapy. I am back to benching full strength.

And stay away from those bench presses to the neck, behind the neck presses and any exercise where your arm is extended in a position behind your head. Good advice from my orthopedist.


I actually just got back from the Dr.'s today. Based on his examination he suspects a partial tear in the bicipatal(sp?) tendon. He ordered an MRI to determine the extent and rehab 3x's a week, plus anti inflammatories.

A funny thing about some of those excercises you mentioned is that behind the neck presses were always more comfortable for me than in the front and so were benind the neck pulldowns. Anytime I did either of those 2 to the front I always had a painful popping or clicking. Even now with this injury I can still perform behind the neck presses without any pain whatsoever.

Once I get my arm raised past parallel Im fine. It's the initial adduction like in a lateral raise that kills me. Also pulling movements are fine, I just RDL'd 315 for 6 reps with no pain. Thanks for the advice I guess I'll just see how it goes.


everyone is built and put together differently... ranges of motion that are considered dangerous for some or most may not be for others... I am more comfortable with behind the head lat pull downs and also get a good workout with barbell military press behind the head... just listen to your body as you are doing and you will be fine...


An important point not often discussed is the protrusion of the acromion, the tip of the clavicle. Orthopedic surgeons grade them 1-4, 4 the worst, meaning it sticks out into the area where the rotator cuff tendons do their job.
I had bilateral 4's. This contributed to me ending up with bilateral surgeries. So did tons of lifting. I had a full tear on the right, requiring open repair, but on the left, I just had a partial tear which was repaired arthroscopically. I healed, good as new, after 9 months on the right. The left is now eight months post surgery and not there yet. I think this is because I had better physical therapy after the first operation.
By the way, my comfort zone with different exercises has changed. Now, I can do front presses with zero discomfort, but bench presses flare up the left shoulder. Used to be the other way around. Strange, huh.
The surgery for the shoulder is very effective, it's just the rehab and recovery is tricky and long.


Wow 8-9 months to get back to normal, not looking forward to that. I just got into the best shape that I've been in a long time and it's frustrating to watch my cuts and size go down the drain after all that dieting and killing myself in the gym. I'm sure you guys can relate. I go for my MRI tomorrow. I guess I'll see how it goes when the doc reads the results. He mentioned that if the tear is small enough it might not require surgery. I had a buddy with a small tear which didn't require surgery and he did ok after 2 months of rehab and is back to full form now. Anyway thanks for the tips everyone.