Rotator Cuff Injury

May 2, 2013 | By | Reply

- Dr. Ekta Vyas

Rotator Cuff Injury
Do you get pain while taking out the jar from the upper shelf or during overhead activity. Do you find it painful to pick up stuff from the backseat of your car while sitting in the front seat?
If your answer is yes then you might be having rotator cuff injury.

What is “Rotator Cuff”?

Rotator cuff is made up of four major muscles (subscapularis, supraspinatus, infraspinatus and teres minor) and their tendons around the shoulder. Rotator cuff connects upper arm bone with shoulder blade. They also help hold the ball of upper arm bone firmly in shoulder socket. The combination results in the greatest range of motion of any joint in the body.

Shoulder rotator cuff muscle
Shoulder rotator cuff muscle

A rotator cuff injury includes any type of irritation or damage to rotator cuff muscles or tendons.

Signs & Symptoms:

  • Pain and tenderness in your shoulder, especially when reaching overhead, reaching behind your back, lifting, pulling or sleeping on the affected side
  • Shoulder weakness
  • Loss of shoulder range of motion
  • Inclination to keep your shoulder inactive

Common causes of injury:

  • Normal wear and tear: After age 40, normal wear and tear on your rotator cuff can cause a breakdown of muscle fibres. This makes them more prone to degeneration and injury. With age, one may also develop calcium deposits within the cuff or arthritic bone spurs that can pinch or irritate your rotator cuff.
  • Poor posture: When you slouch your neck and shoulders forward, the space where the rotator cuff muscles reside can become smaller. This will pinch the tendon under your shoulder bones (including your collarbone), especially during overhead activities, such as throwing.
  • Falling: Using your arm to break a fall or falling on your arm can bruise or tear a rotator cuff tendon or muscle.
  • Lifting or pulling: Lifting an object that’s too heavy or improper technique — especially overhead — can strain or tear your tendons or muscles. Likewise, pulling something, such as in the gym or house cleaning, travelling etc. may cause an injury.
  • Repetitive stress: Repetitive overhead movement of your arms can stress your rotator cuff muscles and tendons, causing inflammation and eventually tearing. This occurs often in athletes, especially fast bowlers, swimmers and squash and tennis players. It is also common among people in the building trades, such as painters and carpenters.


Treatment usually differs according to the cause of injury (eg. poor posture, fall), duration (acute or chronic) and requirement of the individual (housewife, athlete, computer operator and so on).
Rotator Cuff Injury Treatment

  • To reduce inflammation: Icing and ultra sound can be used to reduce acute inflammation. It is important to avoid overhead activities or lifting heavy weights in order to avoid re injury and to allow natural healing to take place. Kinesio taping can be used for the same purpose.

Rotator Cuff Injury Treatment

  • To improve posture: It is very important to work on ideal posture alignment in order to avoid further impingement. e.g. a person working on a computer should adjust the screen to the eye level and should use appropriate chair with back support.
  • To strengthen the shoulder blade muscles: Scapular setting exercises can be done. One can progress with weights and Theraband.

Rotator Cuff Injury TreatmentRotator Cuff Injury Treatment
Rotator Cuff Injury Treatment

  • To maintain the range of movement & prevent getting frozen shoulder: To maintain pure range of movement active assisted exercises with cane can be done.
  • Rotator strengthening exercise: Specific rotator muscle strengthening exercises should be started once scapular strength is achieved. Kinetic control exercises can be used to strengthen rotators.
  • Sports specific strengthening: This should be started when shoulder is pain free and has gained adequate strength.

At PhysioRehab, we conduct a 6-8 weeks Rotator Cuff Injury Rehabilitation program.

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