What to do About Rotator Cuff Pain

A man experiencing rotator cuff pain

The rotator cuff is the name for a group of 4 muscles that provide strength and stability to the shoulder complex.  The muscles originate at the scapula (shoulder blade) and attach to the humerus (upper arm bone).  These muscles participate in almost every shoulder movement and also provide stability to the shoulder joint.

Common injuries include trauma (falls on the arm or outstretched arm) and overuse from overhead activities.  As we age, the rotator muscles are victim to degeneration, impingement and tearing.  Symptoms of rotator cuff injuries include anterior and lateral arm pain, pain with movement(lifting and reaching) especially above shoulder height, weakness and inability to sleep on the affected side.

Treatment includes activity modifications, pain management strategies and maintenance of mobility and function.  Examples of some simple, early exercises that can be done to relieve rotator cuff pain are shown below.

Rotator Cuff Exercises



Scapular retraction

Wall Slides

A diagram of the pendulum exercise for Rotator Cuff pain
A diagram of the scapular retraction exercise for Rotator Cuff pain
A diagram of the wall slides exercise for Rotator Cuff pain
As shoulder pain can have many causes, it is important to have a thorough assessment of your shoulder with a physiotherapist to ensure the most appropriate treatment for you.  Treatment of your symptoms may include manual therapy, dry needling, and individualized exercise prescription.

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