Rotator Cuff Injury

Rotator cuff injuries involve damage to the group of muscles and tendons that stabilize the shoulder, leading to pain, weakness, and limited range of motion.

The basics

A rotator cuff injury affects the shoulder and occurs when one of the tendons in the rotator cuff is torn or damaged. It can cause pain, weakness, and limited mobility in the shoulder. This injury is most common in people who use their shoulders frequently or participate in activities that require repetitive overhead motions. Age can also be a contributing factor. Treatment depends on the severity of the injury and can range from rest and physical therapy to surgery. With proper treatment, most people can regain function of their shoulder and resume normal activities.

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The presentation of a rotator cuff injury typically includes a combination of symptoms that can vary in severity depending on the extent of the injury. Common symptoms of a rotator cuff injury include:

  • Pain in the shoulder, which may be sharp or dull and may be aggravated by specific movements or activities
  • Weakness or loss of strength in the affected shoulder
  • Limited range of motion in the shoulder joint
  • Difficulty lifting objects or performing overhead activities
  • A popping or clicking sensation in the shoulder
  • In some cases, swelling, bruising, or tenderness around the shoulder joint

These symptoms may develop gradually over time or may be the result of a sudden injury or trauma to the shoulder. It is important to seek medical attention if you experience symptoms of a rotator cuff injury, as early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent further damage and improve outcomes.

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Therapies & treatments


Physiotherapy is a common treatment intervention for rotator cuff injuries. A physiotherapist can help with strengthening and stretching exercises, joint mobilization techniques, and manual therapy to help alleviate pain and improve range of motion.

Steroid Injections

Corticosteroid injections can help to reduce inflammation and pain associated with rotator cuff injuries. They are usually reserved for cases where other treatments have not been effective.

Ultrasound Therapy

Ultrasound therapy uses high-frequency sound waves to stimulate deep tissues, promoting healing and reducing pain. It is a non-invasive and safe treatment option for rotator cuff injuries.

Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Therapy

PRP therapy involves the injection of concentrated platelets from the patient's own blood into the affected area. This can help to promote healing and reduce pain and inflammation.

Topical Analgesics

Topical analgesics such as lidocaine patches or creams can provide temporary relief from pain associated with rotator cuff injuries.

Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

NSAIDs such as ibuprofen or naproxen can help to reduce inflammation and pain associated with rotator cuff injuries. They should be used with caution and under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

Functional Movement Training

Functional movement training involves exercises and techniques to improve posture, body mechanics, and movement patterns to reduce pain and prevent further injury. A physiotherapist or exercise physiologist can help develop a personalized functional movement plan for individuals with rotator cuff injuries.

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Self-care strategies


It is important to rest the affected shoulder to allow it to heal. Avoid activities that aggravate the injury and take breaks throughout the day to rest the shoulder.

Ice and Heat Therapy

Applying ice to the shoulder for 20 minutes at a time, several times a day, can help to reduce pain and inflammation. Heat therapy can also be helpful in promoting blood flow and easing muscle tension.

Gentle Stretching

Performing gentle stretches for the shoulder can help to improve flexibility and range of motion. However, it is important to only perform stretches that do not cause pain or discomfort.

Strengthening Exercises

Strengthening exercises can help to improve shoulder stability and prevent future injuries. A physical therapist can provide guidance on appropriate exercises and form.

Posture Correction

Improving posture can help to relieve pressure on the rotator cuff and promote healing. Avoid slouching and hunching, and practice good posture during daily activities.

Ergonomic Modifications

Modifying your work or home environment can help to reduce strain on the shoulder. For example, adjusting the height of your computer screen or using an ergonomic keyboard can reduce shoulder tension during work.

Pain Management Techniques

Various techniques, such as deep breathing, guided imagery, and mindfulness meditation, can help to manage pain and reduce stress.


Eating a healthy, balanced diet can help to promote healing and reduce inflammation. Incorporate anti-inflammatory foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and limit processed and sugary foods.

Sleep Hygiene

Getting sufficient sleep is crucial for promoting healing and managing pain. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night, and practice good sleep hygiene, such as avoiding screens before bed and keeping a consistent sleep schedule.


Effective communication with healthcare providers, family members, and colleagues can help to ensure that you receive the care and support you need. Learn about your condition, ask questions, and communicate openly with your healthcare providers to ensure that your needs are being met.

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