Rotator Cuff Injury

estuary fact sheets




Rotator Cuff Injury

Your Injury

Rotator Cuff injury is a painful condition involving the stabilising muscles of the shoulder.

Anatomy of the shoulder in study room

Also known as rotator cuff tendinopathy, rotator cuff injuries are a common cause of shoulder pain, especially in athletes. They are often the result of activity induced trauma to the muscles supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis and/or teres minor. Risk factors include prolonged and repetitive actions such as pushing or pulling, or short but intensive actions such as weight lifting, overhand throwing, contact sports and racquet sports.

Poor conditioning of stabilising muscles, reduced flexibility, previous injury and spinal joint dysfunction all increase risk of developing rotator cuff injuries.

Signs & Symptoms

May include:

  • Immediate pain at injury site; pain may refer to the upper lateral shoulder, postlateral arm or elbow.
  • A popping or tearing sensation at the time of injury, followed by pain and weakness.
  • Shoulder pain with overhead activity, such as throwing, swimming or racquet sports (with no pain with movement of the arm at less than 90 degrees of abduction).
  • Swelling of the shoulder or upper arm.
  • Weakness – especially during rotation and abduction movement.

Conventional Treatment

May include:

  • Modification of activities that aggravate symptoms further (e.g. lifting / reaching overhead).
  • Oral pain relief is often recommended by GPs, such as paracetamol (with or without codeine), or a non steroidal anti-inflammatory, such as ibuprofen.
  • Physical or manual therapy may be provided to optimise shoulder joint function and stabilise surrounding muscles through targeted exercises. (see below)
  • Corticosterioid injections may be offered if other pain relief options, and physiotherapy, have not shown improvement in symptoms.
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